Saturday, February 24, 2018

Egypt ratifies Islamist-backed constitution

CAIRO — Egypt announced the ratification of a new Islamist-backed constitution on Tuesday, a move that many here hope will end weeks of political turmoil.

The country's high electoral commission declared the charter's official approval at a news conference Tuesday night in Cairo. Nearly 64 percent of the 17 million Egyptians who voted in a national referendum this month approved the document.

The constitution officially replaces the country's 1971 charter, which was written under the military regime of Anwar Sadat and remained in place until the aftermath of the popular uprising that ousted Sadat's successor, Hosni Mubarak, in February 2011.

The charter's adoption signifies a victory for Egypt's elected president, Mohammed Morsi, and his Islamist backers, after months of political conflict that saw the Islamists square off against a broad but disparate opposition composed of liberals, secularists and old regime loyalists. Protests from both sides, over the balance of power in the new Egypt and the religious character of its guiding charter, occasionally devolved into violence.

Critics of the new charter say it will deepen the influence of Islamic law while failing to protect the rights of women and minority groups.

Opposition leaders, who mounted a last-minute campaign for a "no" vote in the referendum, which concluded Saturday, said over the weekend that their failure to defeat the document had still yielded some positive points.

The opposition accused Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of carrying out mass fraud in the two-phase vote, but leaders said that the high number of "no" votes — about 36 percent — signifies an important show of force as the country hurtles toward parliamentary elections in two months.

Under the new charter, the government must hold elections for the lower house of parliament within 60 days.

It is a contest that the opposition said it is likely to challenge, while continuing its push to annul the constitution.

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