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EgyptMorsi signs decree putting new Egypt’s constitution into effect

Published 26 December 2012

Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi signed a decree Monday putting into effect Egypt’s just-approved constitution; Morsi signed the decree after two rounds of a referendum in which the voters approved the document by a nearly 2 to 1 ratio

Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi signed a decree Monday putting into effect Egypt’s just-approved constitution.

Morsi signed the decree after two rounds of a referendum in which the voters approved the document by a nearly 2 to 1 ratio.

In the second round, more than ten million, or 63.8 percent, voted in favor of approving the constitution, and more than six million, or 36.2 percent, voted against.

In the first round of voting, taking place in Egypt’s more liberal big cities, the constitution was approved by 56.6 percent of the vote. The second round of voting was held in Egypt’s rural provinces.

In all, 32.9 percent of those eligible to vote came out to vote.

The process of drafting the constitution, and the sweeping powers Morsi arrogated to himself in the process, deeply divided the Egyptian society. The new constitution is not meaningfully more Islamic in substance than the 1971 constitution it replaces, but many of its clauses are vague and imprecise. This fact, and Morsi’s willingness arbitrarily to give himself sweeping powers, have raised fears among liberal and secular groups that the process of interpreting and implementing the constitution would lead to the gradual imposition of strict Islamic rule on Egypt.     

The international rights group Human Rights Watch said the constitution “protects some rights but undermines others.” It “fails to end military trials of civilians or to protect freedom of expression and religion.”

The U.S. State Department acknowledged the deep divisions within Egypt and said there was a need for a broader consensus behind its new democratic rules.

Many Egyptians have voiced deep concerns about the substance of the constitution and the constitutional process,” Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesman, said Tuesday in a statement. “President Morsy, as the democratically elected leader of Egypt, has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognizes the urgent need to bridge divisions, build trust and broaden support for the political process.”

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