Egypt’s President Mohamed Mursi on Saturday said a controversial new constitution guaranteed equal rights to all Egyptians and has ended a long period of turmoil that lasted more than expected, in an address before a newly empowered senate.
“All are equal before the law, and in this constitution,” he said of the charter drawn up by an Islamist-dominated council and approved in a referendum, adding that there would be “freedom for all people, with no exceptions.”
In his speech, Mursi said that the Shura council holds now the country's legislative authority.
The step comes after president passed all legislative powers to the council last week, after the official results of a divisive constitution referendum came out and a new charter was approved.
Mursi then appointed 90 new council members to the upper house of parliament according to his constitutional prerogatives. The members included liberals and Christians.
Accordingly, the upper house will have legislative powers until a new lower house is elected in a vote likely to take place early in 2013.
In a televised speech on Wednesday, Mursi welcomed the approval the charter, despite fierce opposition protests, and pledged to turn his attention to the economy.
The constitution has been fiercely criticized by human rights activists and the secular-leaning opposition for failing to guarantee women's rights and potentially curtailing freedom of expression and freedom of worship.
“General indicators for the social and economic situation have shown some noticeable progress,” Mursi said of the economy, despite concerns over a downturn.
A declining Egyptian pound and a $4.8 billion IMF loan stalled after weeks of often violent protests have put the country on edge, two years after the economy nosedived with an uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak.
He also promised to reshuffle his cabinet. Two ministers, including an Islamist ally of Mursi, have so far resigned in disagreement with government policy.