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On Sunday, Mr. Morsi’s supporters from the Muslim Brotherhood protested at the Supreme Constitutional Court, where the high court judges were to rule on the legality of the Constituent Assembly and the draft constitution.

Judges said the protests prevented them from entering the courthouse.

The Supreme Constitutional Court judges suspended their work and joined other members of the judiciary who went on strike last week. On Tuesday, a few high court judges said they would oversee the referendum, as the courts are required to do under Egyptian law.

Mr. Morsi continued to discuss preparations for the referendum with his Cabinet while as many as 12 newspapers, most independent, went on strike to protest the draft constitution’s limitations on freedom. Some private broadcasters announced that they would shut off their programming Wednesday to support the protests against Mr. Morsi.

Analysts predicted the opposition, more united than before, will boycott the Dec. 15 referendum, which would further undermine the charter’s legitimacy and create more divisions within society.

“It’s difficult to see how the opposition can participate in the referendum given that it is so opposed to the draft constitution,” said David Hartwell, a Middle East analyst at IHS Jane’s security analysts in London.

“There is a very real prospect of a boycott, which will lead to greater division. We’ll see how it pans out over the next week or two, but I don’t see it being resolved quickly.”

Mr. Gerges blamed the instability on Mr. Morsi.

“President Morsi was responsible for triggering the current crisis by [trying to make himself] supreme leader and to have absolute power. He didn’t even consult with his closest advisers prior to carrying out the decree,” he said. “He has chosen to escalate the confrontation.”

Some Cairo residents say they just want things to calm down.

“Nobody cares about this country. Everybody is looking after their own interests,” said Nada Seliem, 23, a medical student in Cairo.

“We live in such a state of confusion — and I’m confused. I’m thinking to boycott the referendum because I’m not sure if I should vote yes or no.”

Jabeen Bhatti reported from Berlin. Naomi Westland in London and Louise Osborne in Berlin contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.