UPDATE: Egypt Protesters Mull Escalation After Presidential Power Grab, Islamist-Dominated Draft Constitution

Protests in Egypt directed at the country’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked President have already injured over 500 people and show no signs of abating, as efforts by the country’s Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly to dampen popular outrage by passing a draft constitution have thus far failed.

The current round of unrest began last week when Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued a decree vastly widening his powers and shielding his decisions from judicial review. The power grab triggered popular demonstrations involving both Morsi’s opponents, who increasingly fear a return to the dictatorial arrangement that characterized the government of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and his supporters, drawn from Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Salafist groups.

The violence continued throughout the week and triggered severe economic dislocations. By week’s end the demonstrations had grown into the largest protests since Mubarak’s overthrow.

Egypt’s constitutional assembly subsequent attempted to dampen criticism by rushing through a new draft constitution, which once approved by popular referendum might end the political crisis by cancelling Morsi’s decree and outlining an orderly transfer of power to Egypt’s legislature. However the draft, pushed through after a 15 hour session, was approved without the participation of religious minorities and liberals, and has failed to stem the erosion in the Egyptian government’s political legitimacy. American officials have responded to the situation with wariness.

Arab media outlets are reporting that the opposition is mulling further escalation in response to the rushed draft. The Los Angeles Times quoted an Egyptian business owner fearing that "if this constitution is passed, Egypt will become a Brotherhood nation.”

Morsi is set to formally receive the constitutional draft on Saturday, and a nationwide referendum to approve it must follow within 30 days.

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