Egypt ratified a new constitution on Saturday after 98.1 percent of voters approved the document. It was the first Egyptian vote after the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] last July. According to Egypt's Supreme Electoral Commission, 38.6 percent of eligible voters took part [Daily News Egypt report] in the referendum. The new constitution strengthens the military, the police and the judiciary, provides more rights to women and disabled citizens and removes Islamist-leaning clauses inserted under Morsi. A spokesman for Egypt's interim presidency Ehab Badawi said that "this vote represents a resounding rejecting of terrorism and a clear endorsement of the roadmap to democracy, as well as economic development and stability." However, the votes integrity has been challenged [JURIST report] by opposition members and rights campaigners, who say people were threatened not to vote no. Up to 35 people who were campaigning against the constitution were arrested.
Egypt has faced political unrest since the Egyptian Revolution [JURIST backgrounder] began over two years ago. In December the Egyptian Assembly approved [JURIST report] the finalized draft of the new constitution. The secular-based document reflects a shift in policy from the strongly Islamist-leaning document approved under former President Mohamed Morsi. In November the referendum on the constitution originally scheduled for December, was postponed [JURIST report] until January to allow the Assembly more time to complete amendments to the document. The previous constitution has been in suspension [JURIST report] since Morsi's removal in July. That document was approved [JURIST report] by referendum in December 2012, although its opponents appealed its adoption, alleging that its approval was obtained through widespread fraud and irregularities in the administration of the voting. Despite the opposition's allegations, Morsi signed the former constitution into law only three days later.