Egypt referendum to be held mid-January

Widely-awaited announcement was made by President Adly Mansour in presence of the 50-member committee which drafted the charter

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A referendum on Egypt's draft constitution will be held on Jan. 14-15, Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour announced on Saturday.

"I call upon you to vote in a referendum on the draft revised constitution on January 14 and 15," interim president Adly Mansour said in a speech to the nation, accompanied by high-ranking officials and those who drafted the new charter.

The new constitution will be the first step in the army's political transition plan that should conclude with parliamentary and presidential elections next year.

Mansour praised the revised draft for its provisions on the "securing of human rights, freedoms and the balancing of powers".

"It is a good start on which to build the institutions of a democratic and modern state," he said.

The widely-awaited announcement was made in the presence of the 50-member committee which drafted the charter, as well as top state officials including Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawy, his cabinet, members of the Supreme Judicial Council, and representatives of al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, the state news agency reported.

The new constitution was drafted after the interim military-installed authorities suspended the previous charter written under the Islamist Morsi.

Egypt's first democratically elected president was ousted by the army on July 3.

Government officials said last week that the referendum could be held in the middle of January. But controversy arose last week when the president reportedly met with his consultants to discuss what he saw as “errors” in the draft charter awaiting to be put to a national vote, sources told an Egyptian daily newspaper.

Following the news, Amr Moussa, the chairman of the 50-member panel, defended the document.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Moussa said the draft constitution guarantees democracy and freedoms.

“This is a constitution that answers to the requirements of the 21st century,” he said. “The constitution is very clear on democracy and freedoms.”

Critics of the draft constitution contend that is has given the military special status by allowing it to bring civilians before military tribunals.

But Moussa defended the powers given to the military, saying Egyptians must stand behind the military.

“The armed forces are widely respected and are being attacked. They lose soldiers and officers every day,” Moussa said. “There is a consensus that we are going through very dangerous circumstances. The army is under attack and we all have to stand firm behind it.”

The draft also removes Islamist-inspired provisions written into the Egyptian constitution approved in a referendum last year while President Mohammad Mursi was still in office.

The Islamist Anti-Coup Alliance organizes regular protests demanding Mursi’s reinstatement that often set off clashes with security forces and opponents of the deposed president.

(With AFP)

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