Protests in Cairo against President Mohammed Morsi’s late November power grab have continued for the last two weeks but they haven’t shaken the government’s resolve to hold a snap referendum this Saturday on the draft constitution finished last month. The document needs just a simple majority to pass. As the AP noted in the lede of a story on the protests earlier this week, “Morsi is unlikely to worry if Egypt's Islamist-leaning draft constitution passes by only a small margin in a Dec. 15 referendum, since he and his backers tout his 51 percent election victory in June as a ‘popular mandate’ that is beyond any challenge.”
Opposition leaders aren’t sure whether to call for a no vote on the draft constitution or to boycott it. “We will either boycott or vote no,” Mohammed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition leader, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. ElBarade called the referendum illegitimate. Voting no would legitimize it, while boycotting lends the appearance of a wide margin, a trap opposition movements often fall into in autocratic countries.
"You have the majority of the poor people, the simple, definitely for the president and for the constitution," Muhammad Rifaa al-Tahtawi, Morsy's chief of staff, told CNN on Sunday.
"You have a majority among the elite who are not for this constitution. Businessmen, media people. They are definitely a small minority, but powerful minority."
Al-Tahtawi's comments followed calls by the opposition for new, nationwide protests while accusing Morsy of risking a "violent confrontation" by moving forward with the scheduled vote Saturday.
But al-Tahtawi dismissed the threat, saying the issue would be decided by the people.
"If we do not manage to come to terms, let us go to the people," he said.
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