CAIRO - Playing the card of stability after months of turbulence, Egypt's largest Islamist group has appealed to voters to give the thumbs up for the country's new constitution.
"Say 'yes' for a better future, and distribute power between the institutions so they are not concentrated in one hand," senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Egyptians will go to polling stations Saturday, December 15, in a two-stage public referendum to vote on a new constitution.Click to read the constitution in full
Egyptians abroad already started Wednesday to cast ballot at embassies on the new document.
The constitution is meant to be the cornerstone of democracy after three decades of army-backed autocracy under President Hosni Mubarak.
Supporters say the passage of the constitution will bring stability to the country after months of turbulence since Mubarak's ouster last year.
But opponents say the constitution, which was fast-tracked by an Islamists-dominated panel, does not properly represent the aspirations of the whole nation.
Opposition groups say the text ignores the rights of women and workers, restricts freedom of expression and allows for the military trial of civilians.
The main opposition front on Wednesday has urged voters to vote down the new document.
"The Front decided to call on the people to take part in the referendum and reject this draft constitution and vote no, leftist opposition leader Hamdeen Sabahy said.
"If these guarantees aren't in place by the day of the referendum on Saturday, we will withdraw from it."
The vote has proved hugely controversial, with supporters of Islamist groups fighting in Cairo and other cities with members of the liberal, secular opposition.
The presidential palace, focus of mass street rallies, is ringed by tanks and huge concrete barricades.
State television showed on Thursday troops on parade being given orders to protect polling stations and other government buildings.
Both supporters and opponents have steps up their campaigns ahead of the referendum day.
With the constitution, the wheel of production will spin, read posters distributed by the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, referring to the ongoing economic woes in Egypt.
The Egyptian pound is hitting new eight-year lows against the dollar almost daily and a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund seen as vital for a recovery has been put back to next month due to the crisis.
But the opposition has launched a counter campaign with a half-page ad calling on voters to reject the constitution.
Say NO to the constitution that divides Egypt, reads the ad published in most local newspapers.
Down with the constitution that leaves us at the mercy of the police.
For the opposition, the margin of any victory may be crucial.
"There is a real chance the result could demoralize the opposition, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center told Reuters.If the constitution is able to get 70 percent (support) or higher, it might be difficult to recover from that and Morsi is going to claim vindication.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net