In brief: Constitution makes Tunisia a democracy

TUNIS, Tunisia – Tunisia’s National Constitutional Assembly approved the country’s landmark post-revolutionary constitution its members have spent the last two years writing by 200 out of 216 votes.

Sunday’s vote approved the foundation of a new democratic state in the North African country after its people overthrew their dictator in 2011 in a popular uprising that inspired the so-called Arab Spring across the region.

“This constitution, without being perfect, is one of consensus,” assembly speaker Mustapha Ben Jaafar said. “We had today a new rendezvous with history to build a democracy founded on rights and equality.”

The new document guarantees basic freedoms and gender equality. It has been called one of the most progressive constitutions in the Arab world and involved lengthy negotiations between an Islamist-dominated government and the largely secular opposition.

Presidential election first, then parliament

CAIRO – Egypt’s interim leader on Sunday said the country will pick a president before parliament, a widely expected change in a political transition plan as public support for army chief and July coup leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi grows stronger. But Egypt remains dangerously divided, as seen in clashes that killed at least 49 people a day earlier and militant attacks in the country’s restive Sinai Peninsula that left several soldiers dead.

The decision follows weeks of deliberations with different political groups that had pushed for holding a presidential, not parliamentary, election first, as had been originally planned.

The presidential election is now expected before the end of April, while a parliamentary vote should come before the end of July.

Greek island rattled by 5.8 earthquake

ATHENS, Greece – A strong earthquake with a preliminary 5.8-magnitude hit the Greek island of Kefalonia on Sunday, with local media reporting minor injuries to some residents and damage to buildings and roads.

The temblor’s epicenter was about 175 miles west of Athens, near the town of Lixouri on the island, and its depth was 11 miles, the Athens Geodynamic Institute said.

Local media reported several rockfalls as well as damage to the local airport’s control tower.

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