With the Egyptian referendum scheduled for tomorrow and a major demonstration scheduled for today, and international criticism mounting, all kinds of chaotic information is swirling about. Here's some of what I've heard, though I emphasize that little is really certain right now. Rumours swirled that Kefaya's former coordinator George Ishaq had been abducted by security forces; he later turned up unharmed in Port Said, but has since dropped out of contact - don't know where things now stand. It does seem to be the case that security forces confiscated the full run of the opposition paper al-Karama before distribution, probably because of its front page headline "overthrow Mubarak in Tahrir Square" (the site of a planned demonstration).
The major demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square called by a wide range of Egyptian political forces was supposed to start not long ago and continue through tomorrow, despite being banned by the authorities. According to this irregularly updated Kefaya page, several people have already been arrested and beaten, including well-known bloggers including Hossam el-Hamlawy (none of these reports are confirmed), while a number of Western reporters have had their cameras confiscated; al-Jazeera is currently reporting 15 people arrested on their way to the demonstrations. I'm not having much luck getting info about any of this right now, presumably because most of the people who would be providing it are currently out there. Will have more later, I hope.
On the other side, Shaykh Tantawi of al-Azhar earned his paycheck another day by declaring it a sin to not vote in the referendum - just the kind of useful fatwa in service of the state which one expects from official ulema in Arab dictatorships. Going a step further, perhaps, al-Jazeera Talk produced an image of a document which purports to be an official letter ordering state employees to "vote yes" in the referendum tomorrow: I'll reproduce it here so that amateur sleuths can start looking for typescript irregularities!
Source: al-Jazeera Talk
Al-Jazeera is currently airing an interesting roundtable discussion, featuring two senior constitutional law specialists who are harsh critics of the constitutional changes and two leading representatives of the National Democratic Party defending it. A range of other prominent figures are participating via the phone, including Essam el-Erian of the Muslim Brotherhood (on the line right now, to the visible consternation of the NDP reps).
Host Hussein Abd al-Ghani is thus far keeping things civil, allowing for a real debate to develop over the issue. The advantage of this approach is that the constitutional changes are getting a full, calm airing between legal experts; the disadvantage is that al-Jazeera's cameras aren't currently capturing live coverage from Tahrir Square (though there will presumably be many chances to do so over the next day). The merits of offering a "public sphere" for the issues to be debated versus lending its cameras to the protestors will no doubt long be debated by those of us who argue over the political effects of the Arab media.
Meanwhile, Rice apparently has toned down her criticisms after meeting with Mubarak. Why? Well, as I put it the other day "the bottom line is that Mubarak knows that Bush needs him right now and that the US isn't going to cut off his billions in aid. So he is free to go medieval on the Egyptian Constitution, and the US has to grit its teeth and smile through it."
Have to head out now for a while; I will update information when I can.
UPDATE - here's the best running tally. It all appears to be Kefaya people - I had seen an announcement of the protest on several Muslim Brother blogs, but now there's no information about any protests on the Ikhwan website, nor any indication that the MB put people into the streets. Anyone who knows about the MB's stance on the Tahrir Square protest, drop me a line or post a comment?