Interim President Adly Mansour has announced a national referendum on the new draft of the constitution, to take place on 14-15 January.
In a speech at a ceremony on Saturday afternoon, the president called on those who opposed the current political settlement to “give up on their stubbornness,” to stop “following a mirage,” and to join the nation.
The drafting committee submitted the amended draft to Mansour on 3 December. According to the transitional roadmap announced by the interim authorities after the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July, the amended constitution must be approved by a national referendum. A successful referendum vote would be followed by elections.
During the amendment process, the constitutional drafting committee decided to leave the decision of whether to hold presidential or parliamentary elections first to President Mansour.
The new draft aims to replace the 2012 constitution, which was drafted during the presidency of Mohamed Morsi by an assembly dominated by Islamist representatives, and faced widespread political opposition. The Islamist-drafted constitution was approved by a referendum in December 2012, with 64 percent of the votes. Turnout was 33 percent.
“Let this constitution be a word of justice, that unites and doesn’t separate … for hatred is a tool for destruction … disagreement is legislated, as long it adopts peacefulness and is in the country’s interest,” Mansour stated in his speech.
Speaking at the ceremony at Ittihadiya presidential palace in Cairo, the head of the committee which drafted the new version of the constitution, Amr Moussa, said that the panel had drafted a “balanced constitution” that provides freedoms, rights and separation of powers.
“This is a constitution that clearly criminalises any form of discrimination against all citizens and ensures national unity,” said Moussa. The new constitution also protects freedoms of belief, opinion, and creation, which preserves intellectual property rights, and which provides gender equality, he stated.
The ceremony was attended by key officials including Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, military chief and Minister of Defence Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayyeb, and a representative of Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, had warned earlier this week that any attempt to disrupt the referendum will be stopped, “[if necessary] by using firearms.”
Pro-Morsi groups have held regular demonstrations and protests since Morsi’s July exit, frequently clashing with security forces. Several hundred protesters have been killed since July. Police and security forces have also been the targets of terrorist attacks, concentrated in Sinai, since Morsi’s ouster. Officials blame the violence on Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group.