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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Saturday, December 1, 2012
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Egypt charter finalised as opposition cries foul

An Islamist-led assembly raced through approval of a new constitution for Egypt on Friday to end a crisis over President Mohamed Morsi's newly expanded powers, but opponents responded with another rally in Cairo against the Islamist leader.

"The people want to bring down the regime," they chanted in Tahrir Square, where hundreds had gathered, echoing the chants that rang out in the same place less than two years ago and brought down Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi said the decree halting court challenges to his decisions, which sparked eight days of protests and violence by Egyptians calling him a new dictator, was "for an exceptional stage", aimed at speeding up the democratic transition.

"It will end as soon as the people vote on a constitution," he told state television while the constituent assembly was still voting on the draft, which the Islamists say reflects Egypt's new freedoms. "There is no place for dictatorship."

The opposition cried foul. Liberals, leftists, Christians, more moderate Muslims and others had withdrawn from the assembly, saying their voices were not being heard.

They have called for a big rallies across the country yesterday after tens of thousands protested against Morsi's decree on Tuesday. Demonstrations tend to gather pace later in the day.

Protesters said they would push for a 'no' vote in a referendum, which could happen as early as mid-December. If approved, it would immediately cancel the president's decree.

The assembly concluded the vote after a 19-hour session, approving all 234 articles including presidential powers, the status of Islam, the military's role and the extent to which human rights will be respected in the post-Hosni Mubarak era.

The final draft contains historic changes to Egypt's system of government. It limits to eight years the amount of time a president can serve, for example. Mubarak was in power for three decades. It also introduces a degree of oversight over the military establishment - though not enough for critics.

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