CAIRO: Egypt's powerful army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Saturday urged Egyptians to participate "in force" in next week's referendum on a new constitution, billed as the first stage in the nation's democratic transition.
On July 3, Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi after massive protests against the Islamist president's turbulent one-year rule. His ouster triggered unrest that has deeply polarised the country.
Sisi urged the public to "assume their national responsibility of participating in force in the referendum in order to build a democratic and modern state that satisfies all Egyptians," state news agency MENA quoted him as saying at a conference of high-ranking officials.
The referendum on a revised constitution will be held on January 14 and 15 to replace the one suspended when Morsi was toppled.
Sisi said Egypt was at the start of a "decisive stage" in its history, and the referendum will be "the first stage in the implementation of the road map after two unique revolutions that showed close ties between the people and the national army".
The military-installed authorities outlined a road map for a democratic transition after the ouster of Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president.
The plan provides for a referendum on a new constitution, followed by presidential and parliamentary elections by the middle of 2014.
Sisi also urged the security forces to remain alert during the referendum to "create a safe atmosphere, so that the people can express their opinions freely".
Morsi's Islamist supporters have called for a boycott of the referendum amid a brutal crackdown targeting them that has left more than 1,000 people killed in street clashes and thousands more arrested.