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Muslim Brotherhood: Egyptians pass new constitution

Preliminary results released by state run media show 64 percent of Egyptians voted yes.

Egypt constitution approvedEnlarge
Polling station officials deposit ballots during the second round of a referendum on a new draft constitution in Giza, south of Cairo, on December 22, 2012. Egyptians are voting in the final round of a referendum on a new constitution championed by President Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist allies against fierce protests from the secular-leaning opposition. (MAHMUD HAMS /AFP/Getty Images)

Egyptians appear to have approved the country's new draft constitution after a second round of voting that lasted late into Saturday night.

Preliminary results released by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party show that about 64 percent of voters backed the new constitution, reports the Wall Street Journal. 

The constitution, which was drafted by an Islamist-dominated body and backed by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, was voted on under a cloud of controversy after weeks of deadly clashes. 

The Freedom and Justice Party said in a statement to AP that it saw the the passage as an "historic opportunity" to heal the country's divisions and bring back stability. 

Yet critics, including liberals, secular Egyptians, leftists and Christians, say the new constitution favors the Islamists and will enforce a new religious autocracy that betrays the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. 

According to the BBC, Morsi's Islamist supporters say the draft will secure democracy and encourage stability yet the fierce debate has left Egypt's "second republic" brittle and suspicious. 

"I can't vote for a constitution while the constitutional court is besieged and the judiciary is paralyzed," Mohamed Said, a 34 year-old lawyer told the Wall Street Journal. "The articles of the constitution are good in general but it has two-faced clauses that are rubbery and can be bent depending on how they're interpreted."

Once the votes are officially announced, the constitution will be a political victory for the embattled Morsi. 

After it is adopted, a controversial set of decrees the president issued last month will be void and Morsi is expected to return legislative powers to the upper house of parliament until a new lower house is elected, reports NPR News. 

Observers say that Morsi will not come out of the referendum politically unscathed. He has lost all support of the revolutionary forces and will have difficulty building any consensus in the polarized country.

The opposition National Salvation Front said that the constitution appeared to be approved though spokesman Khaled Daoud told the BBC that the group felt "empowered".

"We proved that at least we are half of society [that] doesn't approve of all this. We will build on it," he said.

The initial vote tallies are likely reliable because of the party's history of announcing reliable data ahead of the official results, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Official results are expected on Monday.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/121223/muslim-brotherhood-egyptians-pass-new-constitution