Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved a constitution drafted by President Mohamed Mursi’s allies, results announced on Tuesday showed, proving that liberals, leftists and Christians have been powerless to halt the march of Islamists in power.
Final elections commission figures showed the constitution adopted with 63.8 percent of the vote in the referendum held over two days this month, giving Mursi’s Islamists their third straight electoral victory since veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a 2011 revolution.
Opposition groups had taken to the streets to block what they see as a move to ram through a charter that mixes politics and religion dangerously and ignores the rights of minorities.
Mursi says the text - Egypt’s first constitution since Mubarak’s fall - offers enough protection for minorities, and adopting it quickly is necessary to end two years of turmoil and political uncertainty that has wrecked the economy.
“I hope all national powers will now start working together now to build a new Egypt,” Murad Ali, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told Reuters.
“I see this as the best constitution in Egypt’s history.”
In a sign that weeks of unrest have taken a further toll on the economy, the government ordered new restrictions on foreign currency apparently designed to prevent capital flight. Leaving or entering with more than $10,000 cash is now banned.
Two years since waves of unrest broke out across the Middle East and North Africa - sweeping away long-entrenched rulers in Tunisia, Libya and Yemen as well as Egypt - well-organised Islamist parties have emerged as the main beneficiaries.
Urban secularists and liberals who were behind the revolts complain that their success has been hijacked.
“We need a better constitution,” said Khaled Dawood, an opposition spokesman. “It does not represent all Egyptians.”
Mursi’s opponents say the new constitution could allow clerics to intervene in lawmaking, while offering scant protections to minorities and women. Mursi dismisses those criticisms, and many Egyptians are fed up with street protest movements that have prevented a return to normality.
Immediately after the announcement, a small group of protesters set tyres on fire and blocked traffic near the central Tahrir square, the cradle of Egypt’s uprising, but there were no immediate signs of violence or major demonstrations.
Washington, which provides billions of dollars a year in military and other support for Egypt and regards it as a pillar of security in the Middle East, called on Egyptian politicians to bridge divisions and on all sides to reject violence.
“President Mursi, as the democratically elected leader of Egypt, has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognises the urgent need to bridge divisions,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. He noted that many Egyptians had voiced “significant concerns” over the constitutional process.