Over 63% of Egyptians approve new constitution - Election Committee

An official counts "agree" ballots  in Bani Sweif, Egypt, December 22, 2012 (Reuters)
Egypt's Supreme Election Commission says 63.8 per cent of those who cast ballots voted for the constitution, while 36.2 per cent voted against it. The approved constitution is set to clear the way for elections in the future lower house of parliament.

The approved charter, drafted by Islamists, will now become Egypt’s first constitution following the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak out of office after years of authoritarian rule.

The approved constitution clears the way for elections to the lower house of parliament, set to take place in two months time. The previous Islamist-dominated body was dissolved in June by the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt, which said “the law upon which the elections were held is contrary to rules of the constitution.”

The move placed all legislative powers in the hands of President Mohamed Morsi, who took office just a few days after the Supreme Court’s decision.

The results, which come after Egyptians voted in the second round of a referendum on Sunday, mirror the 60 percent margin forecast by the Muslim Brotherhood, who claimed victory straight after the vote.

The rival National Salvation Front (NSF) accused the ruling party of fraud and vowed to appeal the referendum results.

The opposition also criticized the first round of voting on December the 15th, citing various incidents of fraud that have yet to be investigated.

While Islamists called the referendum and a new constitution a crucial step in Egypt's transition to democracy, the opposition saw it as a threat to civil liberties.

Protesters angry with the results of the referendum have taken to the streets of Cairo, setting tyres on fire on one of Cairo's main bridges and blocking traffic.

Activists are fiercely opposed the new constitution, which was hurriedly drafted by the majority of Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly. They argue that the charter, which is based on Sharia law, is not representative of Egypt’s religious minorities and is an affront to the values of the revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak last year.

The new constitution has split society in Egypt, triggering mass protests around the country, concentrated in Cairo and Alexandria.

The situation in the Arab state escalated four weeks ago after President Mohamed Morsi granted himself sweeping powers.

In an effort to quell violent protests, the president annulled the decree. The move has done little to defuse tensions.