Egyptians fret over economy

Rancorous vote on constitution makes Egpytians worry about the economy.

Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian presidential candidate Mohammed Morsi gives a press conference in Cairo on May 26, 2012. Picture: AFP

CAIRO - Egypt was to announce on Tuesday the result of a vote on a new constitution that Islamist President Mohamed Morsi hails as a step toward stability in a country beset by political and economic crisis.

But critics said that by ramming through the basic law, Morsi has angered his liberal, leftist and Christian opponents.

They also said Morsi may have squandered any chance of building a broad consensus on tax rises needed to rein in a crushing budget deficit.

Unofficial tallies from Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood showed the charter was approved by a 64 percent majority.

The electoral commission will announce the official result at 1700 GMT, with the final numbers widely expected to confirm earlier estimates.

Morsi believes the constitution will end a protracted period of turmoil that has haunted the most populous Arab nation since the fall of military-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

But ordinary people and some commentators worry that Morsi's approach in pushing through the contentious text will only galvanise his rivals to capitalise on any public backlash against austerity rather than help sell reforms to the nation.

Hossam El-Din Ali, a 35-year-old newspaper vendor in central Cairo, said he agreed the new constitution would help bring some political stability.

But, like many others, he feared the possible austerity measures lying ahead.

"People don't want higher prices.

"People are upset about this," he said.

"There is recession, things are not moving. But I am wishing for the best, God willing."

If the "yes" vote is confirmed, a parliamentary election will follow in about two months, setting the stage for Islamists to renew their struggle with more liberal-minded opponents.