Egypt draft constitution approved for referendum | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 01.12.2013
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Middle East

Egypt draft constitution approved for referendum

Egypt's draft constitution has been approved for a referendum, but part of it is raising uncertainty over the country's political transition. It came as police in Cairo used tear gas on protesters in Tahrir Square.

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Egypt draft constitution ready

A 50-member panel tasked with amending the constitution adopted under ousted president Mohammed Morsi approved the final draft on Sunday.

"Now we have approved the draft," said the panel's head, Amr Moussa, on live television.

The draft, which must now be put to a referendum, says elections must take place no more than six months from the date of its ratification, and opens the way for a presidential election to be held before parliamentary polls.

The amended provision avoids stipulating which type of election should take place first. This is a potential change to the political road map outlined by the army when it removed Morsi at the beginning of July, which stated that parliamentary elections should come first.

The draft preserves the military's wide-ranging powers, including the ability to try civilians in certain cases. Officials say the referendum on the draft is likely to be held next month.

Protesters and police clash in Tahrir Square

A few hundred meters from where the constituent assembly voted on Sunday, police used tear gas to disperse protesters from Tahrir Square and Egypt's High Court on Sunday.

Thousands of university students had gathered in the square in support of Morsi, with police driving them out with force, firing some two dozen tear gas cannisters, while armored police rushed to the area as backup.

After nightfall, the protesters and police fought on side streets and in the downtown area of Cairo. Morsi's supporters have staged regular protests across the country to demand his reinstatement after he was removed by the military on July 3.

In mid-August, security forces launched a crackdown on supporters. Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed in political unrest, and thousands more jailed. Last Sunday, Interim President Adly Mansour enacted a law restricting the right to protest. It requires Egypt's interior ministry to be notified three days prior to any protest and also lays out heavy fines and prison terms for those who violate it.

The law is seen as an attempt by the Egyptian government to restrict not only the weekly protests staged by the Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi, but those organized by non-Islamist groups as well.

jr/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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