* Opposition coalition takes 'advanced steps' towards single
* Members vow to keep up resistance to new constitution
* Challenge to organise for election in two months
By Shaimaa Fayed
CAIRO, Dec 23 Egypt's opposition coalition said
on Sunday it was moving towards forming a single political party
to challenge Islamists, whose more disciplined ranks have
dominated the ballot box since last year's revolution.
Members of the opposition National Salvation Front, whose
differences have split the non-Islamist vote, pledged to keep up
the pressure on President Mohamed Mursi, including through
Liberals, socialists and other factions that united under
the banner of the Front campaigned unsuccessfully for a "no"
vote in a referendum on a new constitution which, according to
an unofficial tally by Mursi's Islamist backers on Sunday,
secured 64 percent approval on turnout of about a third of the
51 million eligible voters.
"The Front is very cohesive and the Front is in agreement
that it will lead all battles together," Mohamed Abul Ghar, head
of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party and a leading member of
the Front, told a news conference after the referendum.
"Not only that, but the parties inside the Front have taken
advanced steps to form a big party inside the Front," he said.
A statement from the Front said it had learnt "useful
lessons" during the referendum. But it will have little time to
organise, as a parliamentary election is due to be held in about
"THE REVOLUTION CONTINUES"
Votes since the overthrow of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak
in February 2011 suggest Islamist support has slipped, but
Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood is a potent political force with a
grassroots network - built up over decades, even when it was
repressed - that liberals cannot yet match.
The opposition says the constitution, passed after weeks of
protests and violence, favours Islamists and ignores the rights
of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population,
and women. They say it will split the country and lead to more
"The majority is not big and the minority is not small,"
liberal politician Amr Hamzawy said, adding that the Front would
use "all peaceful, democratic means" to challenge the
constitution and make their voices heard.
George Ishak, another Front figure, said: "The revolution
continues and we will resist with all peaceful means to bring
down this unjust constitution."
Other members said discussions about fighting the
parliamentary poll as a single unit were continuing and it was
too early to talk of details such as how candidates would be
fielded in different constituencies.
Front members include Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed
ElBaradei, who leads the Constitution Party, and leftist Hamdeen
Sabahy, founder of the Popular Current movement.
Both groups have been prominent in demonstrations against
Mursi's rule and his drive to fast-track the constitution
through an Islamist-dominated drafting assembly, which opponents
quit in protest.
Sabahy said the referendum showed "this constitution has no
national consensus." Islamists dismissed such criticism, saying
the result was a clear majority and the constitution was a fair
and essential step to advance Egypt's democratic transition.