* Supreme Judicial Council to oversee vote, says Mursi
* Any boycott by judges threatens plebiscite's credibility
* Mursi sees constitutional referendum as way out of crisis
CAIRO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council
has cleared the way for a referendum on a new constitution which
President Mohamed Mursi hopes will end a political crisis that
has split the country.
Some judges had called for their colleagues to shun the Dec.
15 plebiscite, which must be supervised by the judiciary like
all elections in Egypt. But the council's decision suggests
enough officials can be mobilised to oversee the vote.
"The Supreme Judicial Council has met and agreed to delegate
judges to oversee the constitutional referendum," Mohamed
Gadallah, a legal adviser to Mursi, told Reuters on Monday.
State media also reported the decision of the council.
Gadallah said about 10,000 members of the judiciary are
needed for the monitoring. These do not all have to be judges
and could include officials in prosecutors' offices for example.
"This moves Mursi closer to credible judicial supervision of
the referendum but probably will do little to reassure his
opponents of the legitimacy of the process, beginning from the
formation of the constitutional assembly," said Elijah Zarwan, a
fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Judicial dissent has complicated the Islamist leader's
effort to end the crisis over Egypt's political transition by
driving through a new constitution in a snap vote in a drafting
assembly dominated by his Islamist supporters.
The influential but unofficial Judges Club had called on
Sunday for a boycott of the referendum which Mursi hopes will
douse anger over a decree he issued on Nov. 22, expanding his
powers and temporarily putting himself above judicial review.
Such a boycott, even if not all judges joined it, could
undermine the credibility of the plebiscite and worsen disputes
that have plagued Egypt's path to political change since a
popular revolt overthrew Hosni Mubarak nearly 22 months ago.
The judiciary, like Egyptian society at large, is split over
the vote on the constitution, the way in which it was drafted
and Mursi's decree, seen by his opponents as a power grab and by
his supporters as necessary to keep the transition on track.
There was no direct comment from the judicial council, the
body which formally oversees judicial affairs.
Many judges voiced outrage at Mursi's decree, which caused
unrest in which three people were killed and hundreds wounded.
Even his justice minister and vice president - brothers who were
formerly respected judges who advocated judicial independence in
Mubarak's time - have expressed misgivings.
The opposition has called for another mass protest on
Tuesday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the cradle of the anti-Mubarak
revolt. Mursi's opponents have camped out there since Nov. 23.
Some activists plan to march to the president's office.
Several independent newspapers will not publish on Tuesday
in protest at what they call Mursi's "dictatorship".
The constitution, which if approved would override the
decree, is itself contested by opposition groups who say the
Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the drafting of a document they say
has no legitimacy in a deeply polarised society.
"Settling this matter using the ballot box is an
illegitimate trick representing false democracy," liberal
opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said on Twitter.
The Judges Club boycott call carries echoes of Mubarak's
days, when independent-minded sections of the judiciary refused
to oversee elections unless he enacted judicial reform.
However,, one leading figure in that campaign for judicial
independence, former Judges Club head Zakaria Abdel Aziz, said
the judges had a "national duty" to oversee this referendum.
"A lot of judges called me and they are heading in the
direction of supervising the referendum," he told Reuters.
"The head of the Judges Club is pushing in the direction of
scorched earth," he said. "He and some of those that support him
have pulled the judges into a political battleground."
Ahmed el-Zind, who now heads the Judges Club, has staunchly
opposed Mursi's decree, taking the side of the former prosecutor
general, a Mubarak-era appointee sacked under its provisions.
"We will not supervise a referendum that slaughters the
nation's rights," Zind told Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper on
Monday. Zind's critics say his enthusiasm for an independent
judiciary only became apparent after Mursi took office.
The Judges Club recommendation for a referendum boycott by
judges is not binding. Its earlier call for a judicial strike
against Mursi's decree saw partial success, with the Cassation
Court and Egypt's highest appeals court ceasing work.
On Sunday, the Supreme Constitutional Court, the highest in
the land, followed suit, complaining that Mursi supporters
outside its headquarters were intimidating the judges.
The court had been due to hear cases contesting the legality
of parliament's Islamist-led upper house and of the assembly
that wrote the constitution, which was handed to Mursi on