Egypt Approves New Constitution Drafted by Morsi Allies

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By Reuters

Published December 25, 2012.
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WORSENING ECONOMY

The government says its opponents are worsening the economic crisis by prolonging political upheaval. It has pledged to impose unpopular tax increases and spending cuts to win a loan package from the International Monetary Fund.

The ban on travelling with more than $10,000 in cash followed a pledge by the central bank to take unspecified measures to protect Egyptian banks. Some Egyptians have begun withdrawing their savings in fear of more restrictions.

“I am not going to put any more money in the bank and neither will many of the people I know,” said Ayman Osama, father of two young children.

He said he had taken out the equivalent of about $16,000 from his account this week and planned to withdraw more, adding that he had also told his wife to buy more gold jewellery.

The “yes” vote paves the way for a parliamentary election in about two months, setting the stage for another battle between surging Islamists and their fractious opponents.

The final result, announced by the election commission, matched - to the last decimal place - an earlier unofficial tally announced by Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

But the opposition said it was disappointed - it had appealed for the result to be amended to reflect what it described as major vote violations during the two-round vote.

Officials said there were no violations serious enough to change the result significantly. “We have seriously investigated all the complaints,” said judge Samir Abu el-Matti of the Supreme Election Committee. The final turnout was 32.9 percent.

SENSE OF CRISIS

The referendum has sharpened painful divisions in the Arab world’s most populous nation and a growing atmosphere of crisis has gripped Egypt’s polarised society.

Anxiety about the economy deepened this week when Standard and Poor’s cut Egypt’s long-term credit rating. Prime Minister Hisham Kandil told the nation of 83 million on Tuesday the government was committed to fixing the economy.

“The main goals that the government is working towards now is plugging the budget deficit, and working on increasing growth to boost employment rates, curb inflation, and increase the competitiveness of Egyptian exports,” he said.

The referendum follows Islamist victories in parliamentary and presidential elections, representing a decisive shift in a country at the heart of the Arab world where Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood was suppressed for generations by military rulers.

However, secularist and liberal opposition members hope they can organise better in time for the next parliamentary vote.

Hossam El-Din Ali, a 35-year-old newspaper vendor in central Cairo, said he agreed the new constitution would help bring some political stability but like many others he feared the possible economic austerity measures lying ahead.

“People don’t want higher prices. People are upset about this,” he said. “There is recession, things are not moving. But I am wishing for the best, God willing.”


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