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Morsy hails a 'new era' for Egypt

By Melissa Gray, CNN
December 30, 2012 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsy waves to his supporters in November.
Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsy waves to his supporters in November.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egyptian president makes a speech to parliament about the new constitution
  • He says the constitution guarantees equality under the law
  • It also puts power in the hands of lawmakers, not the president, he says
  • More than 63% of voters approved the controversial constitution

(CNN) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy declared a "new era" for the country Saturday, saying the new constitution guarantees equality under the law and puts power in the hands of lawmakers, not the president.

He spoke three days after signing the controversial constitution into law. Despite criticism of the document, more than 63% of Egyptian voters approved it after two rounds of voting.

"There is no more tyranny, discrimination or absence of social justice," Morsy said in a speech before members of the upper house of parliament, heads of the country's political parties, dignitaries of Egyptian society and diplomats.

"All citizens -- no matter which class they come from, or what they believe in, or what political position they have -- they are all equal before the law and under this constitution. Egypt cannot be built by some of its citizens while others are left behind. Egypt is for all Egyptians. Freedom is for all its citizens, with no exception. And democracy is the result of everyone's effort after the success of the January 25th revolution."

Adopting the new constitution ends a transitional period that Morsy said lasted "a lot longer than necessary."

"I stress to all Egyptians that I will strengthen the authority of the judicial branch and will guarantee its independence," he said. "The modern state cannot operate either without free media, away from the dominance of the executive power and away from those who have only vested interest in their own affairs, also away from corrupt sources of financing."

The constitution puts parliament fully in charge of all legislative powers, Morsy said. He pointed out that voters, not the president, gave them that authority, and he urged lawmakers to work together with all political parties and civil institutions.

Critics said the constitution was put to a vote too quickly. Liberals, Christians and other minority groups said that they felt excluded from the Islamist-dominated assembly that drafted it and that the wording did not include their voices.

Opposition members said the constitution uses vague language and will not protect the rights Egyptians fought for in last year's revolution, which ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Morsy and his supporters say the constitution protects personal rights, especially with its provisions on the handling of detainees in the judicial system, which made capricious use of its powers under the former government.

The president dedicated most of his 40-minute speech to the economy, saying that Egypt is a modern state and the economy must be based on effective and transparent policies. He said Egypt will have a strong economic comeback.

Inflation reached is lowest point in the past two months, he said, and he discounted rumors that Egyptian banks will collapse.

Morsy said tourism, a major source of income for Egypt that has dropped sharply since the revolution, is on the rise. He said there were 4 million tourists in the past few months, double the number over a period of six months last year.

The president touched on foreign policy, stressing a noninterference policy in other nations' affairs and a focus on strengthening foreign ties. He also said Egypt supports the Syrian revolution and will work for Arab and international support to replace the current Syrian regime.

CNN's Amir Ahmed contributed to this report.

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