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Morsy praises voters as constitution becomes law

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Story highlights

  • Mohamed Morsy signs new Egyptian constitution
  • He praises the voters for its passage in a referendum
  • But he criticizes protests that turned violent

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy signed his country's new constitution into law Wednesday, praising the democratic process by which it was ratified, and criticizing some of those who rallied against it.

"We are standing today to celebrate and rejoice our new constitution, its historic day," Morsy said. "Egypt and the Egyptians have a free constitution that is not (decreed) by king, or forced by a president or ordered by an occupier."

His signature comes after Egyptian voters approved the Islamist-backed constitution by a nearly 2 to 1 ratio.

The path to the referendum was contentious and led to a series of moves that critics viewed as a power grab by Morsy, leading to protests, often violent.

"Unfortunately, some did not realize the difference between the peaceful right to express (their) opinion, and between the sliding into violence and (trying) to force their opinion by halting the state institutions, and terrorizing citizens," Morsy said.

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During the two rounds of voting, more than 10 million, or 63.8%, voted in favor, and more than 6 million, or 36.2%, voted against, Judge Samr Abou El Maaty, head of the High Election Commission, told reporters.

    The referendum passed with 56.6% of the vote in the first round on December 15, when more liberal provinces voted.

    In the second round of voting, on December 22, people cast ballots in 17 provinces largely loyal to Morsy and his ruling party -- which backed the constitution.

    "The constitution that was approved by the people is ... based on citizenship, everyone is equal with no discrimination, a constitution that elevates the human dignity of everyone who lives on the Egyptian lands," Morsy said. "For those who said no, and for those who said yes, I say thank you, because we do not want to go back to the 'one opinion' era, or the fake and manufactured majority."

    The rocky road to the referendum began when judges threatened to shut the assembly tasked with drafting the constitution. Morsy issued an edict in late November declaring his decisions immune from judicial review until the holding of the constitutional referendum.

    He also sacked the head of the judiciary, many of whose members had remained loyal to Mubarak.

    The Islamist president's opposition saw the moves as a grab for dictatorial powers and poured into the streets, converting Tahrir Square in central Cairo back into the center of public discontent it had been during the uprising that brought down Mubarak.

    In response, Morsy dropped his decree, but the situation remained tense. Violence raged, producing incidents that have raised the ire of international human rights groups, though these were not systematic, as was the case under the former government.