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Egyptians back constitutional change to pave way for elections

Egyptians have voted to change their constitution as the country moves towards full democratic elections, with new restrictions on the presidency. Voting for a new parliament could take place within months.

A voter does the thumbs up after casting her vote

Voters endorsed the changes drawn up by a panel

Egyptians voted for constitutional changes that lay the ground for parliamentary elections to take place within months.

About 14 million people - 77.2 percent of those who took part - voted in favor of the changes, the country's High Judicial Commission of the Referendum said on Sunday.

"Egyptians came forward to have their say in the future of the country," said Mohammed Ahmed Attiyah, head of the judicial oversight committee.

Included in the amendments is a reduction in presidential terms to four years and a two-term limit for individuals serving in the post.

Hosni Mubarak

Mubarak was in his fifth term after three decades in power

President Hosni Mubarak ruled for almost 30 years and was serving his fifth term when he was forced to resign by a popular uprising on February 11.

A more open field

Another amendment relaxes restrictions on who can run for president, opening the field for independents and those from smaller parties.

The rules also make it more difficult for a president to extend a current state of emergency which has been in place for the last 29 years. In addition, a new constitutional committee is to be formed and there is to be greater oversight of elections.

Amendments were put together by a judicial panel selected by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Military chiefs say they want to cede authority to a democratically elected government as soon as possible. Pro-democracy activists have claimed that the reforms do not go far enough to overhaul the Mubarak-era charter of government.

The turnout of more than 18.5 million people far exceeded the figure for parliamentary elections last November, barely 6 million. Those elections, like others during Mubarak's presidency, were linked with fraud allegations and voting irregularities.

Author: Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Joanna Impey

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