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Egypt's contentious constitution becomes law

After being approved by a 64 percent vote in a referendum, Egypt's Islamist-backed constitution was signed into law by President Mohamed Morsi Wednesday.

By Tamim ElyanReuters / December 26, 2012

Members of the constitutional assembly speak during a session at the Shura Council building in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday. The official approval of Egypt's disputed, Islamist-backed constitution Tuesday held little hope of stabilizing the country after two years of turmoil. Islamist President Mohammed Morsi may now face a more immediate crisis with the economy falling deeper into distress.

Mohammed Asad/AP

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Cairo

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi 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 fragile economy.

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Anxiety about a deepening political and economic crisis has gripped Egypt in past weeks, with many people rushing to buy dollars and take out their savings from banks. The government has imposed new restrictions to reduce capital flight.

The new charter, which the secularist opposition says betrays Egypt's 2011 revolution by dangerously mixing religion and politics, has polarised the Arab world's most populous nation 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 veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011, following parliamentary elections last year and the presidential vote that brought Mursi to power this year.

Mursi'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 to prop up the economy.

The presidency said on Wednesday that Mursi 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 the lawmaking process and leave minority groups without proper legal protection. It also said the referendum was marred by widespread electoral violations.

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