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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Divisive Egypt reforms approved
Egyptian referendum voter
Some polling centres saw just a trickle of voters
Controversial amendments to Egypt's constitution have been approved by 75.9% of those who voted in Monday's referendum, government officials say.

Turnout for the vote was 27%, the justice ministry said, although some independent groups put it at 5%.

The country's main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, boycotted the vote and criticised the amendments as paving the way for a police state.

A senior Muslim Brotherhood official said the result was forged.

The 34 constitutional amendments include a ban on the creation of political parties based on religion, and sweeping security powers.

The government says the changes will deepen democracy, but opponents say it will be easier to rig future elections.

OFFICIAL RESULTS
9,701,833 people voted, 27.1 % of the country's 35,865,660 eligible voters
'Yes' vote 75.9%, 'no' vote 24.1%

President Hosni Mubarak hailed the result on Monday.

"The people are the real winners in this referendum. What has been achieved does not represent the end of the road," he said.

Mr Mubarak promised further political, economic and social reforms but gave no specific details.

Mohamed Habib, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, said the government had made up the referendum result.

"It is 100% forged... They are lying," he told the Reuters news agency.

Sweeping powers

Under Egyptian election laws, a low turnout does not affect the outcome, as a simple majority of votes cast is required for victory.

Even before the official results were announced, the government papers were celebrating a successful referendum, BBC Cairo correspondent Heba Saleh says.

HAVE YOUR SAY
We have no democracy in Egypt. It is already a police state.
Osama, Fujairah

Their front pages gloat about what they describe as massive participation and the failure of the opposition boycott.

It is a different picture in the private and opposition papers which report a low turnout of 10% or under, our correspondent says.

Religious ban

Officials say the changes will allow the drafting of a new anti-terrorism law to replace the emergency legislation in place since 1981, giving police wide powers of arrest and surveillance.

KEY AMENDMENTS
Article 5:
Bans political activity/parties based on religion
Article 88:
Removes judicial supervision of elections
Article 179:
Invokes special powers to fight terrorism

In addition, the amendments ban all religious-based political activity and parties, a blow to the Muslim Brotherhood - an Islamic party banned in Egypt which represents the strongest opposition force.

The Brotherhood ran in the legislative elections in 2005, with candidates standing as independents, and won 88 seats in parliament.

The amendments also allow the adoption of a new election law and do away with the need for judicial supervision of every ballot box.

Opposition groups have voiced fears about the wording of the articles on the new anti-terrorism law because it will be possible to bypass the constitutional guarantees protecting basic freedoms.

Human rights group Amnesty International has called the changes the greatest erosion of human rights since a state of emergency was declared after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat 26 years ago.






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