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Egypt Approves Islamist-backed Constitution

  • Edward Yeranian

An Egyptian woman cuts her hair during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012.

An Egyptian woman cuts her hair during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012.

Egypt's High Electoral Commission announced the final results of the two-stage constitutional referendum Tuesday, after a 24-hour delay to examine charges of fraud. Opposition leaders allege the vote was tainted by numerous irregularities, but the presiding judge says they were all investigated and some results thrown out for irregular procedures.

Few Egyptians appeared surprised by the official results of the constitutional referendum, which had been widely discussed since Sunday. Final results, however, were delayed by 24 hours while officials examined opposition charges of irregularities and fraud.

Electoral commission head Samir Abou al Ma'ati told a press conference that the new constitution won approval by close to two-thirds of those who voted.

Egypt's Draft Constitution

  • Limits president to two four-year terms
  • Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
  • Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
  • Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
  • Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights
He says that 63.8 percent of Egyptian voters approved the new constitution, and 36.2% opposed it.

Less than a third of Egypt's 52 million eligible voters cast ballots in the two-stage referendum, causing some analysts to question the validity of the results. Judge Ma'ati dismissed many charges of fraud, however, insisting that results from polling stations where irregularities took place were discarded.

Opposition leaders, however, argue that the new constitution is divisive and say they will work to overturn it. Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi says the document is not the product of a national consensus and must be replaced.

He insists that the opposition will use peaceful means to annul the constitution, which he says reflects division, rather than consensus.

The Egyptian public appears to be polarized between the secular, leftist and Christian opposition and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. The opposition insists that the referendum was tainted by fraud, while Islamists claim that irregularities were minor.

Meanwhile, Egypt's Defense Minister Abdelfattah el-Sisi told Egyptian TV that the Egyptian Army is the “guarantor” of the security of the nation and that it is not aligned with any political group. He added that the army would “not meddle in political quarrels.”

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With the approval of the new constitution, Egypt's upper house of parliament will now be authorized to issue laws and tackle various problems, including the economy. A new lower house of parliament is due to be elected in two months.

The state of the economy, however, has many Egyptians worried. The central bank is running low on hard currency and a $4.8 billion loan by the World Bank was postponed due to the turmoil over the constitution. Ratings agency Standard and Poors downgraded Egypt from “B” to “B-” on Monday, to reflect growing anxiety over its economy.

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