* New constitution enforced, elections due in 2 months
* Egyptians anxious over battered economy, austerity
* Mursi says new basic law is step towards stability
CAIRO, Dec 26 (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi
has signed into law a new Islamist-drafted constitution he says
will help end political turmoil and allow him to focus on fixing
the fragile economy.
Anxiety about the deepening economic crisis has gripped
Egypt in past weeks, with many people rushing to take out their
savings from banks and the government imposing new restrictions
to reduce capital flight.
Results announced on Tuesday showed Egyptians had approved
the text with an overwhelming 63.8 percent, paving the way for a
parliamentary election in about two months.
The win gives Islamists their third straight electoral
victory since veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak was toppled in a
2011 revolution, following their earlier wins in parliamentary
and presidential elections.
The presidency said Mursi signed a decree enforcing the
charter late on Tuesday after the official announcement of the
result of a referendum approving the basic law, Egypt's first
constitution since Mubarak's overthrow.
The text has sharpened painful divisions in the Arab world's
most populous nation and prompted often violent protests on the
streets of Cairo.
Opposition groups condemn the new basic law as too Islamist
and undemocratic, saying it could allow clerics to intervene in
the lawmaking process and leave minority groups without proper
But Mursi, catapulted into power by his Islamist allies,
believes adopting the text is key to ending a protracted period
of turmoil and uncertainty that has wrecked the economy.
He argues the constitution offers enough protection to all
groups, saying many Egyptians are fed up with street protests
that have prevented a return to normality and distracted the
government from focusing on the economy.
An atmosphere of crisis has deepened in Egypt since the
vote, with many Egyptians rushing to take out cash from banks
and hoarding hard currency savings at home.
Sharpening people's concerns, the authorities imposed
currency controls to prevent capital flight. Leaving or entering
Egypt with more than $10,000 cash is now banned.
Rocked by often violent protests in the run up to the
two-stage referendum this month, Cairo was calm, with only a
small group of protesters burning tyres overnight.
Mursi's government says its opponents are damaging the
economy by prolonging political upheaval. It has pledged to
impose unpopular tax increases and spending cuts to win a loan
package from the International Monetary Fund.
Adding to the government's long list of worries,
Communications Minister Hany Mahmoud resigned from his post
citing his "inability to adapt to the government's working
The United States, which provides billions of dollars a year
in military and other support for Egypt and sees it as a pillar
of security in the Middle East, called on Egyptian politicians
to bridge divisions and on all sides to reject violence.
"President Mursi, as the democratically elected leader of
Egypt, has a special responsibility to move forward in a way
that recognises the urgent need to bridge divisions," State
Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.