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Egypt to hold referendum on constitution in January

CAIRO--Egypt said Saturday a referendum on a new draft constitution will be held next month, the first step toward elected rule in a country deeply polarized after president Mohamed Morsi's ouster.

“I call upon you to vote in a referendum on the revised draft constitution on January 14 and 15,” interim president Adly Mansour said in a speech to the nation, flanked by high-ranking officials and those who drafted the new charter.

The new constitution was drafted by a 50-member panel after the interim authorities suspended the previous version of the charter written under the Islamist Morsi.

Morsi's removal caused deep divisions amid a sweeping and deadly government crackdown targeting his supporters that has left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands more arrested.

The revised charter has come under severe criticism from secular movements and rights groups for retaining the powers and privileges of the military.

It allows the military to prosecute civilians in some cases, appoint the defense minister and keep its budget beyond civilian scrutiny — powers held by the legislature, executive and judiciary of most democracies.

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