Egypt: New Constitution Is Finalised

Egypt: New Constitution Is Finalised

An Islamist-led assembly has finalised a controversial new constitution aimed at transforming Egypt.

It could pave the way for an end to a crisis which erupted when President Mohamed Morsi gave himself sweeping new powers last week.

Mr Morsi said his decree halting court challenges to his decisions, which provoked protests and violence from Egyptians, was "for an exceptional stage".

"It will end as soon as the people vote on a constitution," Mr Morsi told state television on Thursday night. "There is no place for dictatorship."

Some Egyptians had feared a new dictator was emerging less than two years after they ousted Hosni Mubarak , triggering protests in the country.

At one point 200,000 people packed Cairo's Tahrir Square to protest against Mr Morsi's 'pharoah' powers.

The assembly finished approving the draft constitution on Friday. It will be sent to Mr Morsi for ratification, before being put to a popular referendum.

The poll could be held as soon as mid-December on the text, which Islamists say reflects Egypt's new freedoms.

Mr Morsi's critics argue the draft was rushed through, having been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood which backed Mr Morsi for president in June elections.

Two people have been killed and hundreds injured in the protests since last Thursday's decree, which deepened the divide between the newly-empowered Islamists and their opponents.

Setting the stage for more tension, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have called for pro-Morsi rallies on Saturday.

But officials from the Brotherhood's party changed the venue and said they would avoid Tahrir Square, where a sit-in by the president's opponents entered an eighth day on Friday.

Seeking to calm protesters, Mr Morsi said he welcomed opposition but it should not divide Egyptians and there was no place for violence. "I am very happy that Egypt has real political opposition," he said.

He stressed the need to attract investors and tourists to Egypt, where the crisis threatens to derail some early signs of an economic recovery after two years of turmoil.