Egyptian army takes over security ahead of vote

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CAIRO — The Egyptian military today assumed joint responsibility with the police for security and protecting state institutions until the results of a Dec. 15 constitutional referendum are announced.

The army took up the task in line with a decree issued Sunday by President Mohammed Morsi. The Islamist leader today also suspended a series of tax hikes announced the previous day on alcohol, cigarettes and other items.

The decree also grants the military the right to arrest civilians, but presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said it was nowhere near a declaration of martial law.

“It is merely a measure to extend legal cover for the armed forces while they are used to maintain security,” Ali told The Associated Press.

Still, Morsi’s decision to lean on the military to safeguard the vote is widely seen as evidence of just how jittery the government is about the referendum on the draft constitution, which has been at the heart of days of dueling protests by the opposition and Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood backers.

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