Egyptians voted in favor of a constitution that opponents argued would further enshrine Islamic law and supporters said was needed to restore stability and economic growth.
The charter, which was rushed through by a drafting panel after the withdrawal of nearly a quarter of its members, was passed with a 63.8 percent “yes” vote in the referendum that ended Dec. 22, the country’s electoral commission said yesterday in a press conference in Cairo. Turnout for the vote was 32.9 percent, the panel said, adding that it had reviewed all complaints of voting irregularities submitted to it and discounted results from some polling stations that closed early.
Opposition groups including secularists, minority Christians and youth activists have alleged numerous ballot violations and pointed to the turnout as evidence the constitution isn’t representative of the nation’s diversity. Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Mursi denied claims by opponents that the charter curbs certain freedoms.
The polarization of Egyptian society will probably continue until the various political groups “manage to come to the table together, which I don’t see happening now,” Mona Mansour, chief economist at Cairo-based investment bank CI Capital Holdings, said by phone. “It’s time that the liberal parties started thinking about how to gain seats in parliament” so they can have a say in Egyptian politics, she said.
Mursi “has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognizes the urgent need to bridge divisions, build trust and broaden support for the political process,” Patrick Ventrell, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said yesterday in a statement.
“We hope Egyptians disappointed by the result will seek more and deeper engagement,” he said. “We look to those who welcome the result to engage in good faith. And we hope all sides will re-commit themselves to condemn and prevent violence.”
The parliament’s so-far powerless upper house, which will assume temporary legislative powers when the charter is adopted, is due to convene today in a new session. The move stems from the absence of a lower house, which was dissolved earlier in the year under court order. New elections for that chamber are expected to be held within 60 days of the adoption of the constitution.
The April 6 youth movement, which was among the groups backing Mursi in his presidential run, said it shifted to the ranks of the opposition due to its belief that the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, have proven to be no different than the former ruling National Democratic Party, group co-founder Ahmed Maher said yesterday.
The group said it would coordinate with the opposition to set Jan. 25, the second anniversary of the start of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, as the day to overturn the constitution, the state-run Ahram Gate reported.
The vote was fully supervised by the judiciary, the commission said, denying allegations to the contrary.
Egypt’s Minister of Communication and Information Technology Hany Mahmoud announced that he had resigned after less than five months in his position though he will remain in his post until a successor is chosen, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported, citing a post made by the minister on his Twitter account. Mahmoud posted that after 30 years of working with international companies he couldn’t adjust to the government work culture, “especially in the current circumstances of the country,” the news agency said.
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