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Egyptians approve constitution as army chief Sisi eyes presidency

© Photo: AFP

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-16

Egyptians who voted in a referendum this week overwhelmingly approved a new constitution, officials said on Thursday, citing early results of a ballot that will likely see army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declare his candidacy for president.

Initial tallies reported by state media suggested some 95 percent of voters approved the constitution, with official results expected within 72 hours.

“The approval of the constitution is perhaps more than 95 percent,” Major General Abdel Fattah Othman, director of public relations for the interior ministry, told private satellite channel Al-Hayat, putting turnout at around 55%.

There was little doubt that those who turned out would back the new charter, which the military-installed authorities say provides greater protection for freedom of speech and women's rights. The Islamist opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, called for a boycott, considering the two-day poll as part of a coup against former president Mohammed Morsi, who was freely elected 18 months ago and ousted in July 2013.

Deadly clashes

On Tuesday nine people were killed in clashes between police and Morsi supporters with demonstrations stretching into Wednesday. The interior ministry said 444 people were arrested during the two days of voting.

The referendum is a key step in the political transition plan the interim government has billed as a path to democracy, even as it continues a fierce crackdown on the Brotherhood, Egypt’s ruling party until last year.

The authorities have also arrested secular-minded activists in recent months, including prominent figures in the historic 2011 uprising against former president Hosni Mubarak.

One moderately Islamist party said its supporters had been arrested while campaigning for a no-vote in the referendum.

Approval for Sisi

The referendum has been seen as a public vote of confidence in Sisi, the 59-year-old widely seen as the most powerful figure in Egypt since he removed Morsi. Sisi has won the favour of Egyptians who staged mass protests against Morsi's Islamist rule.

Sisi’s supporters see him as the kind of figure needed to restore stability to a country in political and economic crisis for nearly three years.

High turnout would be seen as a strong stamp of approval for the new, army-backed order. A Sisi presidency would see a return to the days when the post was controlled by military men – a pattern broken by Morsi’s one year in office.

The draft constitution removes Islamic language written into the basic law approved a year ago when Morsi was still in office. It also strengthens the state bodies that defied him: the army, the police and the judiciary.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

Date created : 2014-01-16

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