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    Mohammed Morsi hails start of new republic in Egypt

    Urges opponents of constitution to end differences

    Police were stationed outside Parliament in Cairo on Wednesday. The president made a televised speech.
    Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images
    Police were stationed outside Parliament in Cairo on Wednesday. The president made a televised speech.

    CAIRO — Egypt’s Islamist president proclaimed the country’s newly adopted constitution as the dawning of a ‘‘new republic’’ in a television address Wednesday, calling on the ­opposition to join a dialogue with him after a month of violent turmoil and focus on repairing a damaged economy.

    Mohammed Morsi sought to present the Islamist-drafted charter as the turning of a historic page for Egypt, but his speech did little to ease the suspicions of those who fear he and his Muslim Brotherhood are entrenching their power. He offered no concrete gestures to an opposition that has so far rejected his dialogue and vowed to fight the constitution.

    Instead, with a triumphalist tone, he presented the constitution, which was approved by nearly 64 percent of voters in a referendum that ended last weekend, as creating a democracy with balanced powers among branches of government and political freedoms.


    ‘‘We don’t want to return to an era of one opinion and fake, manufactured majorities. The maturity and consciousness (of voters) heralds that Egypt has set on a path of democracy with no return,’’ Morsi said. ‘‘Regardless of the results, for the sake of building the nation, efforts must unite. There is no alternative to a dialogue that is now a necessity.’’

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    The opposition says the constitution allows a dictatorship of the majority — which Islamists have won with repeated election victories the past two years. It says the charter’s provisions for greater implementation of Islamic law, or Shariah, would allow Islamists who hold the presidency and overwhelmingly dominate the temporary legislature to restrict civil rights and limit the freedoms of minorities and women.

    Opponents also say the low turnout in the referendum, just under 33 percent, undermines the document’s legitimacy.

    The main opposition National Salvation Front said it would study Morsi’s speech to see if his call for dialogue is serious. But it dismissed a ‘‘national dialogue’’ body that he launched before the results emerged as ‘‘farcical and simply theater.’’ The dialogue is mainly between Morsi and other Islamists.

    ‘‘The president is talking to himself,’’ said Hussein Abdel-Ghani, a leading figure in the Front said after Morsi’s speech. He said the opposition would only enter ‘‘real and effective’’ talks, suggesting Morsi was aiming to assuage the United States, which has called for compromise and talks, without offering real substance. The Front said it will continue to be in opposition to the current rulers who ‘‘seek to establish a repressive regime in the name of religion.’’


    Morsi’s prerecorded address was his first speech since Dec. 6 after laying low amid the turmoil leading up to the referendum. It came a day after official referendum results were announced, formally bringing into effect the first constitution since the ouster of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

    Morsi’s main message: It is time to put aside differences and start ‘‘the epic battle for construction and production.’’

    He said he had asked his prime minister, Hesham Kandil, to make changes to his Cabinet to meet the ‘‘needs of the coming period’’ and to introduce measures to facilitate investment. But he made no gesture of inviting the opposition to join the reshuffled government.