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Foes in Egypt clash as more voting slated

| Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, 7:22 p.m.
TOPSHOTS  Egyptian riot police try to quell clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria on December 21, 2012. Running clashes between rival protesters erupted in Egypt's second city Alexandria, on the eve of the final round of a referendum on a new constitution backed by the ruling Islamists. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMSMAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOTS Egyptian riot police try to quell clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria on December 21, 2012. Running clashes between rival protesters erupted in Egypt's second city Alexandria, on the eve of the final round of a referendum on a new constitution backed by the ruling Islamists. AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD HAMSMAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Violence erupted between Egypt's divided camps on Friday, a day before the final round of a referendum on a constitution that has polarized the nation, as Islamists and their opponents pelted each other with stones while police fired tear gas in the streets of the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

The contentious referendum, which would bring a greater implementation of Islamic law to Egypt, is expected to be approved in Saturday's voting.

The new clashes — in which opponents of Islamists set fire to cars and dozens of people were hurt — illustrated how the new charter is unlikely to ease the violent conflict over the country's future. For a month, Egypt has been torn between Islamists and their opponents, who accuse President Mohamed Morsy and his Muslim Brotherhood of trying to unilaterally impose their will on the country.

Meanwhile, Morsy was gearing up for the next steps upon the constitution's passage, making a last-minute appointment of 90 members to the parliament's upper house, a third of its membership. Rules allow him to do so, but if he waited until the charter was passed, he could appoint only 10.

The body is normally so toothless and ignored that few Egyptians bothered to vote in elections for it earlier this year, allowing an almost total sweep by the Brotherhood and other Islamists. But once the charter is passed, it will hold lawmaking powers until elections for a new lower house are held — not expected for several months.

The appointments added to the tiny ranks of non-Islamists in the upper house, known as the Shura Council, but preserved the Islamists' overwhelming hold.

A spokesman for the main opposition umbrella, National Salvation Front, dismissed the appointments, accusing Morsy of setting up a token opposition much like ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak did.

“This council and this constitution will also fail as long as there is no real opposition and no real dialogue, and as long as Morsy is only serving his clan and taking orders from the head office of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Hussein Abdel-Razek said.

For the past month, both sides have been bringing their supporters into the street for mass rallies sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands — and repeatedly erupting into clashes.

In part, Egypt's split has been over who will shape the country's path two years after Mubarak's ouster.

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