23 Dec 2012

Early signs show Egypt's new constitution passing

3:13 pm on 23 December 2012

Egyptians appear to have approved a new constitution after the final round of voting in a referendum.

An official from the Muslim Brotherhood's political party says a 71% majority of voters favour of the constitution, with 8.1 million votes counted.

The party backs the charter drawn up by president, Mohammed Mursi.

The official says he expects the overall result to show a roughly 65% majority in favour of the constitution.

Reuters reports that exit polls from the opposition National Salvation Front also show the constitution passing.

Last week's first round returned 57% in favour of the constitution, according to unofficial data. The vote was split over two days as many judges refused to supervise the ballot.

The referendum committee may not declare official results for the two rounds until Monday, after hearing appeals.

Islamist backers of Mohammed Mursi say the constitution is vital to move to democracy, nearly two years after an Arab Spring revolt overthrew authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. It will provide stability for a weak economy, they say.

But the opposition accuses Mr Mursi of pushing through a text that favours Islamists and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10% of the population, as well as women. They also say it is a recipe for further unrest.

Hours before polls closed, Vice President Mahmoud Mekky announced his resignation.

He said he wanted to quit last month but stayed on to help Mr Mursi tackle a crisis that blew up when the Islamist leader assumed wide powers.

Mr Mekky, a prominent judge who said he was uncomfortable in politics, disclosed earlier that he had not been informed of Mr Mursi's power grab.

The timing of his resignation appeared linked to the lack of a vice-presidential post under the draft constitution.

Rights groups reported what they said were illegalities in voting procedures.

They said some polling stations opened late, that Islamists illegally campaigned at some polling places and complained of irregularities in voter registration.