Mon, Dec 24, 2012 - Page 1 News List

Egypt votes for Islamist-backed charter: media

‘ONLY ONE BATTLE’:Unofficial tallies by the media and the Muslim Brotherhood claimed 64% support, but the opposition said there was mass fraud

AFP, CAIRO

Egypt has adopted a new, Islamist-backed constitution with nearly two-thirds support in a referendum preceded by weeks of sometimes bloody protests, official media said yesterday.

Egypt’s opposition said yesterday that it would appeal the results, claiming that voting was riddled with “fraud and violations.”

“The referendum is not the end of the road. It is only one battle,” the statement said, read by National Salvation Front member Abdel Ghaffer Shokr at a Cairo news conference. “We will continue the fight for the Egyptian people.”

Another Front member, Amr Hamzawy, said: “We are asking the [electoral] commission to investigate the irregularities before announcing official results.”

“Our struggle is peaceful to bring down an invalid constitution” by having the commission recognize the alleged fraud and low turnout, Hamzawy said.

Official results are due today after the second and final round of voting on Saturday.

Unofficial tallies given by state media and by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood said 64 percent of those who voted backed the constitution.

“The Egyptian people continue their march toward finalizing the construction of a democratic modern state, after turning the page on oppression,” the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), said in a statement.

Approval of the constitution would trigger parliamentary elections in two months’ time to replace an Islamist-dominated assembly that was dissolved by Egypt’s constitutional court before Morsi’s election in June.

In the meantime, all legislative business will be handled by the Senate, also under the sway of Islamists. On Saturday, Morsi appointed 90 additional senators, including eight women and 12 Christians, to further “national dialogue,” his spokesman said.

The Front had tried to scupper the poll with mass rallies before it switched its focus to a last-minute campaign to vote down the charter.

The text was drafted by a panel dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-orthodox Salafist groups.

Christians and liberals boycotted the process in protest at changes they saw as weakening human rights, especially those of women.

Combined turnout from both rounds was 32 percent, the Muslim Brotherhood said.

In Washington, Republican US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called the vote “a defeat for the Egyptian people.”

“We cannot celebrate the trade of an authoritarian regime for an Islamic dictatorship,” she said.

Yesterday’s editions of Egyptian newspapers reflected the divisions in the country.

“Egypt heads to stability,” the front-page headline in state-owned al-Akhbar read.

“Mass violations,” the mass circulation independent daily al-Masry al-Youm reported.

FJP chairman Saad al-Katatni, offered an olive branch to other parties on Saturday, saying in a statement that the party hopes “to turn over a new leaf” in the political confrontation.

Pre-referendum tensions over the vote were seen in Egypt’s second city, Alexandria, on Friday, when 62 people were hurt as stone-throwing mobs torched vehicles.

On Dec. 5, eight people were killed and hundreds more injured in clashes between rival demonstrators outside the presidential palace in Cairo.

About 250,000 police and soldiers were deployed to provide security during the referendum. The army has also positioned tanks around the presidential palace since early this month.

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