Egypt police and protesters clash at presidential palace

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Egyptian police fired water cannon at stone-throwing protesters outside the presidential palace on Monday as the opposition held rallies to mark the second anniversary of Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.

The clashes broke out after several hundred protesters marched to the palace, the site of increasingly frequent clashes, on a day of marches against Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohammed Mursi.

Opposition groups called for the protests to demand that Mursi fulfill the goals of the revolution which brought him to power along with his long-banned Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Among their key demands are a new unity government, amendments to a controversial Islamist-drafted constitution and the sacking of Egypt’s prosecutor general.

Activists are also furious that no one has been held accountable for the deaths of dozens of protesters in past months in clashes with police.

“Down with Brotherhood rule,” the protesters chanted as they made their way to downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of protests that toppled Mubarak. Other marches converged on the palace.

Earlier, protesters briefly blocked a major bridge as well as trains in a central Cairo metro station, scuffling with passengers and metro police, witnesses and state media reported.

Two years ago, Egyptians poured onto the streets to celebrate after an aide to Mubarak announced the veteran president's resignation, buoyant that democratic change was within reach.

The 84-year-old’s spectacular fall from grace on February 11, 2011 after an 18-day popular revolt sent shock waves across the Middle East and beyond.

But two years later, many are angry the main goals of freedom and social justice have not been achieved and that Egypt is polarized between Mursi’s mainly Islamist supporters and a broad opposition.

Egypt has witnessed deadly violence, insecurity and price hikes, fuelling the political turmoil gripping the country.

Meanwhile, Shawqi Ibrahim Abdel Karim was elected on Monday to take over as Egypt's next mufti, the government's top interpreter of Islamic law, the highest Sunni Muslim institute in Islam announced.

President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is to formally ratify the vote by senior Muslim clerics to replace outgoing Mufti Ali Gomaa.

"One candidate has been nominated, Dr Shawqi Abdel Karim," said Al-Azhar spokesman Mohammed Gemea, after Abdel Karim beat a Muslim Brotherhood member to win the most ballots in a vote by a senior council of Al-Azhar clerics.

The position has in the past been traditionally filled by top scholars from Al-Azhar -- the most prestigious Sunni institution -- who were generally staunch backers of whoever ruled the country.

Abdel Karim, a professor of Islamic jurisprudence, is not known to hold any political affiliations.

Gomaa, the outgoing mufti, was criticized for reportedly saying that former president would go to heaven, before Mubarak's ouster.

Al-Azhar, the main seat of Sunni Muslim learning, has sought to become more independent of the government since Mubarak's ouster, positioning itself as a moderate force above the political fray.

The mufti is responsible for Dar al-Iftaa, a body that issues tens of thousands of fatwas a year. The edicts do not carry the force of law but carry weight.

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