CAIRO — Egypt's opposition said Sunday it will keep up protests against a referendum on a disputed draft constitution but stopped short of advocating either a boycott or a no vote less than a week before the ballot.
The opposition was still pushing for Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to cancel the Dec. 15 referendum, saying they reject the process entirely and refuse to call it legitimate.
The referendum over a disputed draft constitution has deeply polarized Egypt and sparked some of the bloodiest clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents since he came to power in June.
In a sign of how jittery the government is about holding the referendum, Morsi has ordered the military to maintain security and protect state institutions until the results of the referendum are announced.
The new presidential decree, published in the official gazette, would be effective starting Monday. The military is asked to coordinate with the police on maintaining security and would also be entitled to arrest civilians.
Morsi insists on holding the referendum on schedule. Instead, as a concession to his opponents, he rescinded decrees he issued last month granting him almost unrestricted powers, giving himself and the panel that drafted the constitution immunity from judicial oversight.
The National Salvation Front, an umbrella opposition group of liberal and leftist parties, said at a news conference Sunday that holding the referendum in such an atmosphere would lead to more strife. It called for another mass demonstration on Tuesday.