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Hardline Islamist party urges Egyptians to back constitution

Source: Reuters - Thu, 5 Dec 2013 01:38 PM
Author: Reuters
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CAIRO, Dec 5 (Reuters) - An Islamist party that backed the army's ouster of President Mohamed Mursi urged Egyptians to vote in favour of a new constitution in an upcoming referendum, saying that would spare the country more turmoil.

The ultraorthodox Nour Party, which came second to Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood in parliamentary elections two years ago, had one representative in the 50-member assembly that completed the draft constitution earlier this week.

"The Nour Party will take part in this referendum and will take part with 'yes', out of our concern for bringing about stability and so that we spare the country more anarchy," Younes Makhyoun, the head of the party, said in a news conference.

The party's support for the army-led roadmap has set it apart from Islamists who opposed the army's removal of Egypt's first democratically elected president.

The draft constitution reflects how the balance of power has shifted since the army deposed Mursi on July 3 following mass protests against his rule.

The Brotherhood rejects the draft constitution together with the rest of the army-led transition plan, saying it is a product of a military coup.

The draft deepens the autonomy of the already powerful military establishment and contains a provision that could lead to an outright ban on Islamist parties.

In contrast to the last assembly, which was dominated by Islamists, this body had only two Islamist representatives. The other was a former Brotherhood member who became a vocal critic of the group.

"The constitution is considered a first step on the road to stability that all Egyptians aspire to, and to preventing sliding into a spiral of anarchy," Makhyoun said.

The Nour Party, part of the ultraorthodox Salafist movement, was set up after President Hosni Mubarak's downfall in 2011, emerging from the Dawa Salafiya, a religious movement.

It won a fifth of the seats in Egypt's last legislative elections and took part in the assembly that wrote the constitution signed into law by Mursi last year.

The new assembly, which wrapped up its work on Sunday, removed Islamist-inspired provisions written into the constitution last year. But the Nour Party has defended the new draft, saying it safeguards the role of Islamic law, or sharia.

Interim head of state Adly Mansour, who was installed by the army after it deposed Mursi, is expected to call the referendum on the constitution for later this month or next.

The referendum is to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections next year. (Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Michael Georgy and Sonya Hepinstall)

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