The battle over Egypt's constitution has dominated the last weeks of 2012 and highlights the sharp political divisions exposed by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year dictatorship the previous year.
December has seen blatant manipulation of state institutions, organised violence and intimidation directed at the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood and the use of the army and police to quell rising discontent.
Since Mubarak's fall dozens of secular political grouplets have been formed or come out of hiding after decades underground. Every conceivable ideology is represented, including some which are unique to Egypt - there are three "Nasserist" parties alone.
The fight over the constitution has unified many of these groups around an umbrella organisation, the National Salvation Front (NSF), whose co-ordinator is the liberal politician Mohammed el-Baradei.
Since President Mohammed Morsi started to use emergency powers to enforce his policies the NSF has been at the heart of organising daily protests, not just in Cairo but across Egypt, of a size and militancy that rivals those of the 2011 revolution.
But the struggle has also seen the growth of the newly formed Revolutionary Democratic Coalition - an evolution of an older alliance initiated by the Egyptian Communist Party and the Socialist Popular Alliance Party.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its parliamentary wing the Freedom and Justice Party are at pains to emphasise their commitment to democracy, and like to paint the opposition as a front for Mubarak-era diehards. The Brotherhood's senior political adviser Gehad el-Haddad describes it as a "truly representative government."
And of course Morsi won an election, a fact understandably repeated over and over in Brotherhood statements on CNN and the BBC.
But the truth is more complicated, and in Egypt - unlike in Britain or the US, where people have been drip-fed the notion that democracy is confined to the ballot box - Morsi's legitimacy is widely disputed.
He won the presidency with the support of less than 12 per cent of the adult population in the first round. Every election that has taken place has seen the Brotherhood employ violence and intimidation. And turnouts have been surprisingly low, especially if you compare them to the level of participation that was seen in, for example, post-apartheid South Africa.
The battle raging is one for control of Egypt's state. This is reflected in the constitution drawn up by a Brotherhood-dominated commission.
The use of Islamic sharia law has been part of Egyptian politics since the time of Mubarak's predecessor Anwar Sadat. It has been used to shore up support among Islamists for governments pursuing neoliberalism and reorienting Egypt away from the Soviet Union, to which it had close links under Gamal Abdul Nasser, and towards the United States.
But the draft constitution takes this a step further. Article Two not only states that sharia is the major source of legislation but a new Clause 219, inserted after opposition forces had walked out of the Constituent Assembly, moves the interpretation of sharia away from the Supreme Constitutional Court to "esteemed Sunni clerics" represented in the al-Azhar Council of Grand Clerics.
There's a minor reference to the autonomy of the minority Christian and Jewish populations, for example by allowing them to choose their own spiritual leaders. But this failed to convince the representatives of the three official churches to the assembly. They walked out on November 17.
In fact, almost every member of the assembly not aligned with the Brotherhood has joined the boycott called by the NSF. Over the last two months 40 of the original 100 elected members have withdrawn from it.
Much has been made of how, under pressure from mass protests, Morsi eventually withdrew his November 22 emergency decree giving him power to ignore the judiciary. But in fact the new constitution still gives the president sweeping powers.
This is all too familiar to Egyptians - Mubarak's state of emergency, declared after Sadat's assassination in 1981, lasted until February 2011.
Cairo's Zagazig University's professor of constitutional law Nour Farahat argues that "like Mubarak, Morsi will enjoy unchecked power and be free from any parliamentary oversight. The new constitution keeps the 'pharonic' presidential system intact."
Morsi's defenders argue that he was forced to adopt emergency powers since a judiciary stocked with Mubarak placemen was obstructing the formation of democratic institutions, most obviously by dissolving parliament in the summer.
The Supreme Constitutional Court dissolved parliament for a number of reasons including flaws in the elections of many representatives. But the main reason was its decision that the "mixed" electoral system - where two-thirds of seats go to political parties and one-third to "independents" - was unconstitutional.
The mixed system was deemed weighted towards returning an Islamist majority, since many of the "indepedents" may not have been members of the Freedom and Justice Party but were members of the Brotherhood, elected by stealth, who voted with it.
The claim that the court's ruling was orchestrated by Mubarak supporters flies in the face of the reality on the ground. Every progressive and secular force in Egypt withdrew from the assembly.
The approval of the constitution - with a slender majority on a low turnout - in a referendum is unlikely to restore order. It will further intensify the battle on the streets in the months ahead.
The constitution, by handing such power to the president and vast legislative authority to clerics, falls far short of capitalist democratic norms. But it's also notable for a complete lack of economic democracy.
Previous Egyptian constitutions have contained commitments to full employment, nationalisation, free education and the public ownership of wealth and land.
These principles were hangovers from the Nasser era, and both Sadat and Mubarak found ways around them. But the new draft entrenches the neoliberal policies of the last 30 years into a permanent constitutional arrangement.
Today the government said it was reopening talks with the IMF over a $4.8 billion loan. There will be strings attached.
Whether the constitution sticks or not the battle for the future of Egypt's revolution will continue. Its outcome will be determined as much by what happens on the streets as by the struggle within the country's fledgling "democratic" institutions.
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