Egypt to hold constitutional referendum in December


A referendum will be held in Egypt in December on the country’s new constitution, the group drafting it says.

“The referendum will be held before the end of (December),” said Mohamed Salmawy, spokesman of the constituent assembly, on Tuesday.

Salmawy’s remarks contradict those made by Egyptian interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi, who said on Sunday that the referendum would be held in the second half of January 2014.

In an effort to ease tensions over a new law limiting protests, the spokesman said that the new constitution would ensure the right to protest if authorities are notified beforehand.

Under the new law, which was passed on Sunday, gatherings of more than 10 people require a written permit three days prior to the protest.

Before the timing of the referendum was announced, police forces clashed with demonstrators, who took to the streets to defy and protest against the law in front of the Shura Council, where the constitution panel sits, in downtown Cairo.

Rights group Amnesty International has denounced the new law, saying it “gives security forces free rein.”

Meanwhile, ten members of the 50-member panel that is drafting the constitution suspended work after several protesters were arrested during the day.

Egypt has been experiencing unrelenting violence since July 3, when the army ousted former President Mohamed Morsi’s government, suspended the constitution, and dissolved the parliament. It also appointed Mansour, the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, as the new interim president.

About 1,000 people were killed in a week of violence between Morsi supporters and security forces after police dispersed their protest camps in a deadly operation on August 14.

The massacre sparked international condemnation and prompted world bodies to call for an independent investigation into the violence.

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