* Islamists' tally gave charter 64 percent approval
* Opponents say ballot littered with irregularities
* Some question legitimacy after only one-third turn out
* Battered economy downgraded by ratings agency
CAIRO, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Egypt will announce on Tuesday the
official r esults of a vote on its new constitution, the head of
the elections committee told state media on Monday, a step which
paves the way for the formation of a new parliament in about two
The creation of a new constitution is a vital step in
Egypt's transition to democracy almost two years after the fall
of military-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak.
But the opposition says the text, crafted mostly by
President Mohamed Mursi's Islamist allies, fails to guarantee
personal freedom and the rights of women and minorities. It says
it will lead to more trouble in the most populous Arab nation.
Unofficial tallies from the Muslim Brotherhood - which
catapulted Mursi into the presidency this year - indicated that
64 percent had approved the charter. An opposition tally had a
"The Supreme Elections Committee will announce on Tuesday at
7 P.M. (17:00 GMT) the results of the referendum on the new
constitution," judge Samir Abu el-Matti told state radio and TV
late on Monday.
Matti also said that the committee, which is led by judges,
had spent the last two days investigating opposition and rights'
groups accusations of voting fraud.
Mursi's critics said the vote, conducted in two stages in a
process that ended on Saturday, had been marred by a litany of
irregularities, and have demanded a full inquiry.
The opposition, a loose alliance of socialists,
liberal-minded Muslims and Christians, have also noted that less
than a third of those eligible turned out to vote, undermining
the legitimacy of the new constitution.
If the "yes" vote is confirmed, a parliamentary election
will follow in about two months, setting the stage for Islamists
to renew their battle with more secular-minded opponents.
Opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize
winner, urged Mursi to form an all-inclusive government together
with the liberal camp in order to patch up divisions and steer
Egypt out of trouble in a democratic way.
"I am ready to join hands with President Mursi on condition
that he forms a national (unity) government and speaks as
president for all Egyptians," he told the daily Al-Shorouk.
ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear agency, said
a new assembly should rewrite the draft - a call unlikely to be
heeded by Mursi, who is keen to push it through quickly.
By forcing the pace on the constitution, Mursi risks
squandering the opportunity to build consensus for the austerity
measures desperately needed to kick-start a the ailing economy,
Highlighting investor concerns, Standard and Poor's cut
Egypt's long-term credit rating and said another cut was
possible if political turbulence worsened.
Responding to what it said were market rumours, the central
bank said it was taking steps to safeguard bank
Some Egyptians say they have withdrawn their funds from
banks out of concern that they will be frozen by authorities.
Under the new constitution, legislative powers that have
been temporarily held by Mursi move to the Islamist-dominated
upper house of parliament until a new lower house is elected.
The make-up of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which
Islamists say is filled with Mubarak-era appointees bent on
throwing up legal challenges to Mursi's rule, will also change
as its membership is cut to 11 from 18.
Those expected to leave include Tahani al-Gebali, who has
described Mursi as an "illegitimate president".
The low turnout in voting on the constitution has prompted
some newspapers to question how much support the charter really
had, with opponents saying Mursi lost the vote in much of the
"The referendum battle has ended, and the war over the
constitution's legitimacy has begun," said newspaper Al-Shorouk,
while a headline in Al-Masry Al-Youm read: "Constitution of the
The head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice
Party, Saad al-Katatni, wrote on Facebook that the group's
members were "extending our hands to all political parties and
all national forces", adding: "We will all start a new page."
But the opposition National Salvation Front say the new
constitution only deepens a rift between the liberals and
Islamists who combined to overthrow Mubarak, and that they will
keep challenging it through protests and other democratic means.
"We do not consider this constitution legitimate," liberal
politician Amr Hamzawy said on Sunday, arguing that it violated
The run-up to the referendum was marred by protests
triggered by Mursi's decision to award himself broad powers on
Nov. 22. At least ten people were killed in clashes in Cairo and
violence also flared in Egypt's second city, Alexandria.