Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi
has called for a December 15 referendum on a draft constitution and urged a national dialogue on the "concerns of the nation" as the country nears the end of the transition from Hosni Mubarak's
Morsi spoke after receiving the final draft of the constitution from the Islamist-dominated assembly that wrote it.
According to Al-Arabiya, the draft constitution was finalized following a 15 hour-long vote on Friday.
The president said that the draft "meets public aspirations in many ways… and underscores the people's rule and their freedoms.
"The president's power has been scaled down for the first time in Egyptian
history – the president can dissolve the parliament only if approved by a referendum, and if his proposal is denied he resigns," he added.
"Today we are taking another step towards completing the revolution. We will not forget those who were killed and injured. Without their blood and sacrifice we wouldn’t be here today."
Assembly Chairman Hossam el-Gheriyani
said that the draft was formulated after the assembly received more than 35,000 suggestions for amendments and additions in writing and over a million such suggestions via its website.
El-Gheriyani said the draft was formulated "For the love of the Egyptian people and the country," and urged a referendum as soon as possible.
The draft met a mixed response by the Egyptian public, as masses took to Tahrir Square for rallies both condemning and supporting the incumbent president and his constitution.
The constitution has taken center stage in the country’s worst political crisis since Morsi’s election in June, squaring largely Islamist forces against liberal opposition groups.
Civil rights activists slammed the charter, saying it protects certain rights but undermines others.
“Rushing through a draft while serious concerns about key rights protections remain unaddressed will create huge problems,” Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director Joe Stork said in a statement.
Amnesty International said the draft “raises concerns about Egypt’s commitment to human rights treaties,” specifically ignoring “the rights of women (and) restricting freedom of expression in the name of religion.”
The group pointed to an article that guarantees freedom of worship for Islam, Christianity and Judaism but makes no mention of other religions, thus “potentially excluding... religious minorities such as Baha’is and Shiites.”
The constitution draft stated that the “principles of Islamic law” are the main source of legislation, but added that this was to be interpreted along the tenets of Sunni Islamic rulings, a clause churches have opposed, the report said.
Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said on Saturday the "struggle will continue" after Morsi called for the referendum on a draft constitution.
"(Morsi) put to referendum a draft constitution that undermines basic freedoms and violates universal values. The struggle will continue," ElBaradei said on his Twitter feed.
Reuters contributed to this report
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