Egypt's most senior judges announced on Monday they would delegate judicial officers to oversee a referendum on a controversial draft constitution, overriding calls for a boycott, a presidential aide said.
The Supreme Judicial Council's announcement that judges would monitor the December 15 vote across the country comes as a blow to President Mohamed Morsi's opponents, including judges, who had hoped to delegitimise the referendum.
Mohammed Gadallah, Morsi's legal aide, said the decision meant that the referendum would take place under judicial supervision, despite calls for a boycott by the Judges Club, a powerful syndicate representing judges nationwide.
Nonetheless, Egypt's political crisis is widening, with plans for a huge march and a general strike Tuesday to protest the hurried drafting of a new constitution and decrees by President Mohammed Morsi that gave him nearly unrestricted powers.
Morsi also faces the prospect of wider civil disobedience as media, the tourism industry and law professors pondered moves that would build on the judges' strike.
The planned strikes and march raise new fears of unrest, threatening to derail the country's transition to democratic rule.