Muslim Brotherhood claims charter 'approved'

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is claiming that the country's new draft constitution has been passed after the final round of voting in a referendum, even as the opposition has claimed the group engaged in voting fraud.

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which President Mohamed Morsi hails, and the official al-Ahram newspaper reported that about 64 percent of voters supported the constitution, after preliminary results were tallied from the second round on Saturday.

The early results are based on reports from returning officials from the vast majority of stations over the two rounds, which were held a week apart. Official results will be announced by the country's election committee on Monday, pending appeals.

Exit polls from the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) also showed the constitution passing, an official said. The NSF did, however, allege that there had been incidents of fraud during the vote, and was due to outline these at a press conference on Sunday.

Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna, reporting from Cairo, said that early indications are that the draft constitution will be approved.

"It appears at the moment that in the region of 68 percent of voters have approved the draft constitution, some 32 percent have voted against," said Hanna, adding that only 35 percent of Egypt's roughly 50 million eligible voters turned out for the poll.

The December 15 first round returned 57 percent in favour of the constitution, according to unofficial data. The vote was split over two days as many judges refused to supervise the ballot.

Backers of Morsi say the constitution is vital to move to democracy, nearly two years after a revolution that overthrew authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. It will provide stability for a weak economy, they say.

But the opposition accuses Morsi of pushing through a text that they claim favours Islamists and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women.

Late on Saturday, Morsi announced the names of 90 new members he had appointed to the upper house of parliament, state media reported, and a presidential official said the list was mainly liberals and other non-Islamists.

The president's main opponents from liberal, socialist and other parties said they had refused to take any seats.

Two-thirds of the 270-member upper house was elected in a vote early this year, with one third appointed by the president.

Vice president resigns

Meanwhile, Egypt's vice-president announced his resignation even as voters were still going to the polls on Saturday, state TV reported.

Mahmoud Mekki's resignation was announced just hours before the end of voting in the second and final round of the referendum on the constitution.

Fifty-eight-year-old Mekki, a career judge, said that he intended to quit once the charter was adopted. The new constitution eliminates the post of vice-president.

"I have realised a while ago that the nature of politics don't suit my professional genesis as a judge," he wrote.

Egypt's Central Bank chief, Faruq El-Okd, also resigned on Saturday, state television reported.

El-Okd, the bank's head since 2003, has had a central role in shoring up the value of the pound as well as playing a critical role in the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund on a  $4.1bn loan which Egypt is attempting to secure.

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