Egypt’s President puts contentious constitution into effect

Wednesday, December 26, 2012
President of Egypt signs a decree enforcing the charter after the official announcement of a referendum approving
basics law, Egypt's first constitutions after Mubarak's overthrow[Photo: Mohamed Morsi's official Facebook page] 
Cairo: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday signed into law a new Islamist-drafted constitution following a public referendum in which less than one-third of eligible voters cast ballots.

Morsi said the adopted constitution would help to end political turmoil and allow him to focus on fixing the fragile economy.

Yasser Ali, presidential office spokesperson, confirms that Morsi signed the executive order hours after the Supreme Electoral Commission announced the draft charter had been endorsed by 63.8 of voters in this month's referendum.

Though, the official turnout among Egypt’s 52 million registered voters was just under 33 percent but officials said they found no electoral violations during the two-stage vote serious enough to change the final result.

Supporters of the charter -- including President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood -- say the constitution should lead to stability and economic revival.

With the document approved, the stage is set for lower-house parliamentary elections in around two months.
Pro-reform opposition supporters continue to reject the constitution, saying it falls short of guaranteeing universal rights and protections for women and minorities, and could lead to Islamist interference in lawmaking.

The opposition has questioned the legitimacy of the constitution because of the paltry turnout.

The United States, which provides billions of dollars of annual military and other aid to Egypt, has reacted to the result by calling on President Morsi to “bridge divisions” among Egyptians.

The State Department said in a written statement that “the future of Egypt’s democracy depends on forging a broader consensus behind its new democratic rules and institutions.”

The statement added that Washington has “stood with Egyptians as they have engaged in the difficult work of democratic transition” since Washington’s former ally Hosni Mubarak was ousted as Egyptian ruler in February 2011.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton took note of both the strong majority backing the constitution, as well as the low turnout.

In a written statement, Ashton also urged President Morsi to intensify efforts for a dialogue with pro-reform supporters opposed to the constitution.

The turmoil of the past two years in Egypt has severely damaged the country’s economy, with foreign direct business investment, tourism and foreign currency reserves all declining sharply.

Notably, Egypt's new constitution has been drafted by a Constituent Assembly whose non-Islamist members, including church representatives, liberals, leftists and others, dropped out of in protest against what was frequently described as "Islamist domination."
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