The assemblage of supporters mirrored the broad divide between Islamists and secularists. Mr. Morsy’s backers raised slogans with distinct Islamist overtones.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy on Saturday demonstrated his capacity to mobilise street power and, with it, signalled his intention to rush towards a referendum meant to approve a constitution draft.

Mr. Morsy’s resolve to shape post-Mubarak future was apparent when tens of thousands of supporters, heeding the President’s call, assembled in front of Cairo University. Crowds of supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood — Mr. Morsy’s parent organisation — also converged in other cities including Alexandria, the country’s second largest, and Assiut in the south.

The assemblage of supporters mirrored the broad divide between Islamists and secularists. Mr. Morsy’s backers raised slogans with distinct Islamist overtones.

“Islamist [state] everywhere,” shouted some, while others extolled the virtue of such a state to counter the forces of “injustice and tyranny”. Many chanted, “God is great, people [support] the decisions of the President.” They were referring to the decree that the President had passed, which would temporarily endow him with sweeping powers, and make his decisions immune to judicial intervention till a new constitution was ratified and parliamentary elections held.

But on Friday, Mr. Morsy’s secular opponents held a massive rally in the Tahrir Square. They called for the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, which in their view was packed with Islamists. Anti-Morsy activists chanted the famous line —“People want the fall of the regime” — echoing the chief slogan that was used in rallying protesters against Hosni Mubarak. Many Liberals fear that their country under Mr. Morsy’s watch could become a theocratic dictatorship.

Mr. Morsy’s counter-rally a day later seemed to demonstrate that the President had clear plans to quickly steer the political transition, irrespective of the resistance from his detractors. The President and his inner circle had ensured that the draft of the National Charter was approved on Friday, even before the courts could pronounce on whether the Constituent Assembly that had drafted it was a lawful body. Forty three lawsuits have been filed that challenge the existing process steering the transition.

Referendum

The President is now expected to ratify the draft and announce a short timeline for holding a referendum. State-run newspaper al-Ahram reported that the head of the Constituent Assembly Hossam el-Gheriany will submit the draft constitution to Mr. Morsy later on Saturday, and the President is expected to ratify it in a few hours.

The rush to pass the constitutional draft began when the Supreme Constitutional Court, the country’s highest judicial body announced that it would rule on the lawsuits. This triggered a marathon session of the Assembly that began on Thursday night, and continued till all the 234 Articles were passed.

According to the draft constitution, the President would be able to serve a maximum of two four-year terms. The draft includes an Article that defines “principles of Sharia” as the primary source of legislation.

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