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Alexandria erupts in violent clashes ahead of Egypt constitution vote

The violent protests come just a day before a scheduled referendum on the draft constitution, a document that has divided the newly democratic country.

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A fresh round of violent clashes is being reported in Alexandria, Egypt, a day before the referendum on the draft constitution. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Several people were injured Friday in clashes between opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi during demonstrations in Alexandria.

The violent protests came just a day before a scheduled referendum on the draft constitution, a document that has divided the newly democratic country.

As many as five were reported injured in Alexandria as the clashes spread into the Mediterranean city's streets.

The Associated Press reported that thousands of supporters from both sides came out to demonstrate, with scuffles and burning cars reported. Fighting using clubs and swords was also reported near Alexandria's main mosque, where pro-constitution supporters handed out pamphlets, reported Reuters.

Religious authorities were instructed to restrain from voicing their opinions on the constitution, but the Associated Press reported that some clerics strongly urged their followers to vote "Yes."

A largely peaceful rally of Morsi supporters also took place in Cairo on Friday. From Cairo, GlobalPost's Erin Cunningham wrote that the crowds demonstrating were much smaller, on both sides. "The rallies today are not particularly big. I think everyone's resigned to the fact that the referendum is moving forward, and are focusing on their strategies for the vote, or lack thereof."

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Egypt has seen violent demonstrations and massive protests since Nov. 22, when President Morsi issued a decree that granted him significant new powers. Near-daily rallies and protests by both sides in Cairo have seen seven dead and hundreds injured since then.

Morsi has since rescinded the decree — after massive protests by Egyptian liberals — but has not backed down on holding the constitutional referendum, set to begin this weekend.

The draft constitution has divided Egyptians between its supporters and those who believe that the documents fail to protect minority rights and that religion figures too prominently in the document.

Due to a lack of polling station monitors, the referendum will be held on two days, Saturday Dec. 15 and 22.

Al Jazeera reported that victory for those opposed to the constitution is unlikely, given the much larger support and better organization of Islamist groups.

GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Erin Cunningham contributed reporting from Cairo.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/121214/alexandria-erupts-violent-clashes-ahead-egypt-constit