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December 24, 2012 12:04 pm
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Egyptians Approve Islamist-Backed Constitution

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Mohammed Morsi. Photo: Jonathan Rashad.

After two rounds of voting, Egyptians have approved a new Islamist-backed constitution, despite strong opposition and widespread reports of disenfranchisement.

Seventy percent of voters opted in favor of the constitution in the second round of voting on Dec. 22, the New York Times reported.

A broad coalition of secular liberals, leftists and Christians have accused President Mohamed Morsi, who is backed by the Muslim Brotherhood, of seeking to entrench his own power and give rise to a new Islamist authoritarian style rule.

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Last month, protests erupted after Morsi issued a decree giving him near absolute powers. Morsi later backed down.

Adding to the turmoil, Egypt’s vice president resigned during the vote; several of Morsi’s top advisors have resigned over the past month.

During the vote, there  were widespread reports of Christians being intimidated and kept away from poll stations by Islamists, resulting in a low Christian turnout.

About a week before the vote, some 50,000 Islamists marched on Christian neighborhoods of a provincial capital, Assiut, chanting that Egypt will be “Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians.”

At their head rode several bearded men on horseback with swords in scabbards on their hips, evoking images of early Muslims conquering Christian Egypt in the 7th Century, the Associated Press reported.

“When all issues become religious and all the talk is about championing Islam and its prophet, then, as a Christian, I am excluded from societal participation,” Shady Magdy Tobia, a Christian activist in Assiut, told AP.

“If this does not change, things will only get worse for Christians.”

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