Egyptians back new constitution in referendum

Sun Dec 23, 2012 9:16am EST
 

By Yasmine Saleh and Shaimaa Fayed

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Islamist-backed Egyptian constitution won approval in a referendum, rival camps said on Sunday, after a vote the opposition said would sow deep social divisions in the Arab world's most populous nation.

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled President Mohamed Mursi to power in a June election, said an unofficial tally showed 64 percent of voters backed the charter after two rounds of voting that ended with a final ballot on Saturday.

An opposition official also told Reuters their unofficial count showed the result was a "yes" vote, while party spokesmen said there had been a series of abuses during the voting.

The main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, responded to the defeat by saying it was moving towards forming a single political party to challenge the Islamists who have dominated the ballot box since strongman Hosni Mubarak was overthrown two years ago.

Members of the opposition, taking heart from a low turnout of about 30 percent of voters, pledged to keep up pressure on Mursi through peaceful protests and other democratic means.

"The referendum is not the end of the road," said Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the National Salvation Front. "It is only the beginning of a long struggle for Egypt's future."

The referendum committee may not declare official results for the two rounds until Monday, after hearing appeals. If the outcome is confirmed, a parliamentary election will follow in about two months.

Mursi's Islamist backers say the constitution is vital for the transition to democracy, nearly two years after Mubarak was ousted in a popular uprising. It will provide the stability needed to help a fragile economy, they say.   Continued...

 
Policemen stand guard near a poster outside the constitutional court put up by supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi as they stage a sit-in, in Cairo December 23, 2012. Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi will have little time to savour victory in pushing through a new constitution as it may have cost the Islamist leader broader support for urgent austerity measures needed to fix the creaking economy. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah