Egypt approves new Islamist-drafted constitution

Constitution approved by 63.8% of the vote; Morsi imposes currency restrictions to cope with economic crisis.

Egyptian poll workers count votes in referendum 370 (R) (photo credit: Reuters / Stringer)
Egyptian poll workers count votes in referendum 370 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters / Stringer)
CAIRO - Egypt announced on Tuesday voters had approved overwhelmingly a constitution drafted by President Mohamed Morsi's Islamist allies, and the government imposed currency restrictions to cope with an economic crisis worsened by weeks of unrest.
Final figures from the elections commission showed the constitution was adopted with 63.8 percent of the vote, giving Islamists their third straight victory at the polls since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a 2011 revolution.
Morsi's Leftist, liberal, secularist and Christian opponents had taken to the streets to block what they argued was a move to ram through a charter that would dangerously mix politics and religion.
The president argues that the new constitution offers sufficient protection for minorities, and adopting it quickly is necessary to end two years of turmoil and political uncertainty that has wrecked the economy.
Hours before the vote result was announced, the authorities imposed a new ban on traveling in or out of the country with more than $10,000 in foreign currency, a move apparently intended to halt capital flight.
Some Egyptians have begun withdrawing their savings from banks in fear of tougher restrictions.
The "yes" vote paves the way for a parliamentary election in about two months, setting the stage for yet another electoral battle between surging Islamists and their fractious liberal and leftist opponents.
The final result, announced by the election commission, matched - to the last decimal place - an earlier unofficial tally announced by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The constitution was drawn up by a body largely made up of Morsi's Islamist allies. The results announcement was a disappointment for the opposition which had put pressure on the authorities to recount the result to reflect what they have described as major vote violations.
"We have seriously investigated all the complaints," judge Samir Abu el-Matti of the Supreme Election Committee told a news conference. The final official turnout was 32.9 percent.
Cairo, gripped by often violent protests in the run-up to the vote, appeared calm after the announcement and opposition groups have announced no plans for demonstrations to mark the result.
"The results was so odd and no change in the percentage points shows that nothing was done to take our complaints into account," Khaled Dawood, an opposition spokesman, said.
The referendum, held on December 15 and on December 22, has sown deep divisions in the Arab world's most populous nation but Morsi says enacting the new constitution quickly will bring stability and a chance to focus on fixing the economy.
A growing sense of crisis has gripped Egypt's polarized society for weeks. Standard and Poor's cut Egypt's long-term credit rating on Monday.
Hours ahead of the results announcement, Prime Minister Hisham Kandil told the nation of 83 million the government was committed to taking steps to heal 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.