UPDATE 3-Egypt to announce result of constitution vote on Tuesday

Tamim Elyan and Yasmine Saleh
Reuters Middle East

* 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

similar result.

"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,

economists say.

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

personal freedoms.

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.

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