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The judiciary has said it will decide Wednesday whether to participate in the referendum.

The opposition is hoping that if it decides not to participate, Mr. Morsi will halt the vote, which is one of its key demands.

“I’m here to push for building this country on the proper foundational constitution it deserves, written by a diverse body,” said Sherief Hassan, 26, a telecommunications engineer who protested Tuesday at the presidential palace. “There are fewer freedoms than in the 1971 constitution. The bigger problem is in who wrote it and the illegal process they wrote it by, not what’s in it so much.”

“[The constitution] will most likely pass with ‘yes,’ but I am here because I have some hope,” the protester added.

In Nasr City, tens of thousands of Islamists rallied in favor of the charter, accusing the opposition of being supporters of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by a popular revolt in February 2011.

“In the last election, I said ‘no’ to Morsi, but I am with him because he is the legal president,” said Abdallah Omar, a chemist in Cairo. “If there is someone who wants to say ‘no’ to the constitution, that is no problem. But the problem is with people who want to stop progress.”

Political, economic uncertainty

Supporters of the constitution say the country must hold this referendum and pass a new charter in order to move forward in its political transition.

Opponents of the proposed constitution say it lays the foundations for an Islamist state that would restrict freedom of speech and rights for women and minorities while granting clerics a say in interpreting law.

Many secular members, as well as minority Coptic Christians, walked out of the committee that drew up the constitution late last month.

A question mark hangs over whether opposition groups will campaign for a “no” vote or for a boycott of the referendum.

Analysts said low voter turnout could seriously damage the credibility of the constitution if it passes.

“The government may say, ‘Take it or leave it. We invited you. If it’s your fault, we will proceed without you,’” said Mr. Fahmy. “But the results then will cast serious doubt on the whole legitimacy of the vote if the opposition is not around, if the Copts are not around.”

Still, the government is betting on voter support of the constitution in order to bring stability to a country where many are growing weary after close to two years of political instability, economic uncertainty and public unrest.

Others said it was necessary to fight for Egypt’s future.

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