CAIRO — Supporters of Egypt’s toppled president held sporadic protests today against this week’s constitutional referendum, as some demonstrations turned into violent clashes that killed at least one person, authorities said.
After today's prayers, protesters backing ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group marched in Cairo and other provinces. The demonstrations came as a Brotherhood-led coalition called on supporters to protest against the draft constitution and to commemorate the coming third anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Some protests turned violent. In Suez, protesters threw gasoline bombs, fired birdshot and hurled rocks while police responded with tear gas. Protesters set three motorbikes on fire and soldiers deployed to confront the demonstrators, a security official said.
In Alexandria, police said they arrested 17 protesters and confiscated locally-made guns and gasoline bombs. Police arrested 39 protesters in Cairo, where clashes struck the densely populated neighborhood and Brotherhood stronghold of Imbaba, among other locations, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported.
The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak with journalists.
The Health Ministry said one person was killed in the city of Fayoum. It was not clear if he was a protester or a resident. Five others were injured nationwide, the ministry said.
The protests came after millions of Egyptians voted in a two-day referendum on a new constitution, an amended version of the charter drafted under Morsi in 2012.
Interim authorities consider the constitution a key step of the country’s political future and a transition to democracy that would improve the image of Egypt in front of the world. The plan calls for coming parliamentary and presidential election.
Morsi supporters have held near-daily protests since a popularly backed military coup toppled him July 3. The Brotherhood, which considers the military-backed interim government illegitimate, said they boycotted the referendum and claimed authorities forged the results. Unofficial results suggest an overwhelming majority of voters supported the new constitution.
“Let them fool themselves. ... Whatever is based on falsehood is false,” a Brotherhood statement Thursday said.
Meanwhile today, French President Francois Hollande said Egypt “should look to Tunisia’s example in building a democracy ... finding a democratic path where the voice of everyone is respected.”
The two countries led the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. While Islamists dominated Tunisia’s post-revolution elections, as in Egypt, they had a better record of compromising with secular opposition parties.