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Egypt's leader signs constitution into law

Source : Agencies | 26 Dec 2012

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has signed into law first post-Mubarak constitution he says will help end political turmoil and allow him to focus on fixing the fragile economy.

Anxiety about the deepening economic crisis has gripped Egypt in past weeks, with many people rushing to take out their savings from banks and the government imposing new restrictions to reduce capital flight.

Results announced on Tuesday showed Egyptians had approved the text with an overwhelming 63.8 percent, paving the way for a parliamentary election in about two months.

The win gives Islamists their third straight electoral victory since US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a 2011 revolution, following their earlier wins in parliamentary and presidential elections.

The presidency said Mursi signed a decree enforcing the charter late on Tuesday after the official announcement of the result of a referendum approving the basic law, Egypt's first constitution since Mubarak's overthrow.

Opposition groups condemn the new basic law as too Islamist and undemocratic. But Mursi, catapulted into power by his Islamist allies, believes adopting the text is key to ending a protracted period of turmoil and uncertainty that has wrecked the economy.

He argues the constitution offers enough protection to all groups, saying many Egyptians are fed up with street protests that have prevented a return to normality and distracted the government from focusing on the economy.

An atmosphere of crisis has deepened in Egypt since the vote, with many Egyptians rushing to take out cash from banks and hoarding hard currency savings at home.

Sharpening people's concerns, the authorities imposed currency controls to prevent capital flight. Leaving or entering Egypt with more than $10,000 cash is now banned.

Rocked by often violent protests in the run up to the two-stage referendum this month, Cairo was calm, with only a small group of protesters burning tyres overnight.

Mursi's government says its opponents are damaging the economy 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.

Adding to the government's long list of worries, Communications Minister Hany Mahmoud resigned from his post.