Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi yesterday signed into law a new constitution shaped by his Islamist allies, which he says will help end political turmoil and allow him to focus on fixing the economy.
The new charter, which the secularist opposition says betrays Egypt’s revolution last year by dangerously mixing religion and politics, has polarized the country and prompted occasionally violent protest on the streets.
Results announced on Tuesday showed Egyptians had approved the text with about 64 percent of the vote, paving the way for a new parliamentary election in about two months.
The win in the referendum is the Islamists’ third straight electoral victory since former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year.
Morsi’s government, which has accused opponents of damaging the economy by prolonging political upheaval, now faces the tough task of building a broad consensus as it prepares to impose unpopular austerity measures.
Cairo yesterday said that Morsi had signed a decree enforcing the charter overnight after the official announcement of the result of the referendum approving the basic law, Egypt’s first constitution since Mubarak’s overthrow.
The opposition has condemned the new basic law as too Islamist, saying it could allow clerics to intervene in lawmaking and leave minority groups without proper legal protection. It also said the referendum was marred by widespread electoral violations.
Nevertheless, major opposition groups have not called for new protests, suggesting that weeks of civil unrest over the constitution may be subsiding now that it has passed. Morsi believes adopting the text quickly and holding the vote for a permanent new parliament will help end a protracted period of turmoil and uncertainty that has wrecked the economy.
The government says the constitution offers enough protection to all groups and that many Egyptians are fed up with the protests that have prevented a return to normality and distracted the government from focusing on the economy.
The constitution gives Egypt’s upper house of parliament, which is dominated by Islamists, full legislative powers until a vote for a new lower house is held. The chamber convened yesterday for the first time since the law was signed.