Brotherhood supporters, meanwhile, were confident that their side had won, and that with each successive victory at the ballot box, their vision for Egypt was coming to pass.
“Freedom for the seculars is different than freedom for the Islamists,” said Ahmed Morad, a 40-year-old Brotherhood supporter. “The seculars call for the separation of religion and state. The Islamists are calling for the state and religion to be the same thing.”
Egyptians disagree over whether that is where the constitution will lead. The document establishes Islamic law as the principal source of legislation, but so did the constitution that was in force throughout Mubarak’s tenure.
The new charter includes provisions protecting the rights of Christians and Jews, and proclaims the people, not God, to be the source of all government authority. Many Salafists have expressed disappointment that the document does not go as far as they would like in promoting the role of religion in public life.
But secular opponents of the draft constitution say it is vague enough that legislators and judges can use it to restrict the rights of women and religious minorities. Non-Islamists pulled out of the constitution-writing process before it was complete, arguing that their views were not being taken into account.
Crunch time for opposition
If the constitution passes, the focus in Egypt would quickly shift to parliamentary elections, which must be held within two months. Islamists dominated last winter’s elections, the results of which were later annulled.
The opposition, which has been beset by division and disorganization, now has only a small window of time to decide whether to continue to protest against the constitution, or focus on gearing up for the parliamentary vote.
Opposition leaders have proven adept at bringing thousands to the streets to demonstrate, but have been far less successful in attracting the millions of voters necessary to win at the ballot box.
At a time when many Egyptians appear to crave stability, a return to protests could be risky for a group that had been showing signs of greater political maturity.
“Even though they lost, they developed organizationally,” Soltan said. “Whether they will be able to maintain that is an unanswered question.”
Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.