Protesters took to the streets of Cairo on 12 December after Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi obtained 57 per cent of the vote in the first part a referendum on a new draft constitution at the weekend.

While the approval level was less than Mursi had hoped for, the constitution is likely to be further backed in the second part of the referendum on Saturday 22 December, which will be held in districts with wider support for the Islamist president.

Several hundred opponents of Mursi gathered outside the presidential palace calling for Mursi to step down, while opposition groups have also complained of widespread vote rigging and other irregularities.

About a third of eligible voters are thought to have voted in the first part of the referendum. The likely vote in favour will give the president the mandate to lead Egypt’s governance in a more Islamist direction.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s public prosecutor, Talaat Ibrahim, has agreed to resign amid pressure from lower members of the judiciary, having only been appointed by Mursi last month. Opposition prosecutors objected to Ibrahim’s appointment due to his close links with the Muslim Brotherhood – the political support base of the president.

The referendum comes after Mursi’s announcement on 20 November of a seven-point decree granting him sweeping new rights and temporary executive power of Egypt’s courts. The move has divided Egypt, alienating the country’s secularists and liberals and galvanised Mursi’s opposition.