Opposition rally against draft charter fizzles in Egypt

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CAIRO — An opposition appeal for mass protests against a draft Egyptian constitution backfired Tuesday, with a dismal turnout forcing leaders to acknowledge that they erred in calling their supporters to the streets.

“This was a mistake. We have to admit it,” said Hussein Abdel Ghany, a spokesman for the main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front.

The failed rally suggested that the power of protests has waned after two years of nearly nonstop demonstrations that began with the exhilaration of an 18-day revolution but that have since devolved into bitter infighting among former allies.

The lackluster turnout also pointed to difficult choices ahead for the loosely organized group of liberals, leftists, secularists and Christians who oppose President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

Tuesday’s demonstration came in between two rounds of voting on a referendum that appears headed for passage and that would give Egypt a new constitution. About 57 percent of voters in the first round backed the contentious charter, according to tallies by the Brotherhood, which has proved accurate in the past. The second round, scheduled for Saturday, is expected to yield a wider margin in favor of the document, which has received strong support from Morsi and other Islamist leaders.

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