Egypt: Make or break

Next week’s referendum on the new constitution is turning into a vote on the post-Morsi roadmap – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Gamal Essam El-Din, Jan 8, 2014 (picture – 3 schoolgirls: To these schoolgirls, as to millions of other Egyptians, the passing of the new constitution as a prerequisite for the implementation of the current roadmap seems the only hope for a fulfilling and meaningful future – photo: Al-Sayed Abdel-Qader).

The 14 and 15 January referendum marks the first time Egyptians have gone to the polls since Mohamed Morsi’s removal. As such the vote will be as much about public confidence in the roadmap as approval of the redrafted constitution. Amid Muslim Brotherhood threats to disrupt the ballot and security officials’ assurances that everything will run smoothly officials are crossing their fingers the public will turn out in large numbers to give a thumbs up to Egypt’s post-Morsi political dispensation … //

… The SEC is solely authorised to license local and foreign civil society organisations seeking to monitor the referendum. According to the SEC statement, NGOs affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood will be barred from any monitoring role. In the 2012 referendum the majority of NGOs granted permission to take part in monitoring belonged to the Brotherhood.

SEC has indicated that 6,000 local and foreign monitors will be allowed to monitor the poll as opposed to 17,000 in 2012. “Foreign monitors will include the Jimmy Carter Institute, the Arab League, the European Union (EU), Transparency International and the International Institute for Democracy,” said the statement.

“The number of eligible voters is estimated at 53,423,485,” says Shiashi, up by 1,504,619 on 2012.

More than 200,000 police will take part in securing the vote. Military spokesmen have indicated that they will be supplemented by army personnel.

On Monday interim President Adli Mansour amended the 1956 law on political rights so that voters are not restricted to casting their ballots at the polling station closest to their registered address. Mansour issued a decree that will allow specially designated polling stations to receive votes from citizens no longer residing at their officially listed addresses.

In 2012 Mohamed Morsi issued a decree that effectively barred anyone not living at their registered addresses from voting. “The Brotherhood then paid members thousands of pounds to help them return to their registered addresses and vote,” says Fathi. Voters in parliamentary polls in 2011, as well as the presidential election and constitutional referendum in 2012, were obliged to cast their votes at polling stations linked to the addresses on their national identity card or passport.

The Muslim Brotherhood has announced it will boycott the referendum though many political analysts believe the group’s members could turn out in their thousands to vote no in a bid to strip the referendum of legitimacy.

The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Free Egyptian Party, Karama Party, Arab Nasserist Party and the Salafist Nour Party are among the political parties actively campaigning for a yes vote. As part of the “Read Your Constitution” campaign the Popular Current staged rallies in Giza on Friday and in Minya on Saturday in coordination with the Egyptian Social Democratic, Tagammu, Nasserist and Karama parties, along with the Kifaya and Tamarod movements.

The Nour Party, which backed the 2012 constitution, is also backing its replacement. The party is planning a major rally next Sunday at which it will encourage its supporters to vote for the amended charter.

Misr Al-Qaweya (Strong Egypt) Party, which rejected the Muslim Brotherhood-drafted constitution in 2012, is one of only a handful of political groups calling for a no vote. It is joined by the Revolutionary Socialists, the 6 April Movement, the Revolutionary Path Front and the Salafist Front.

Egyptian expatriates began voting in the constitutional referendum yesterday amid expectations of a low turnout. The 681,695 expatriates who registered their names on the election committee’s website will be able to vote at one of 138 designated polling station around the world between 8 and 12 January.

The count will start on Sunday evening in the 127 embassies and 11 consulates designated as polling stations. The results will then be sent to the Foreign Ministry which will forward them to the elections committee. Out of the some eight million Egyptians living abroad, only some 681,000 have registered to vote, of which 312,000 live in Saudi Arabia, 132,000 in Kuwait, 67,000 in the UAE, 42,000 in Qatar and 31,000 in the US. The rest are scattered across the world. (see pp.3&5)
(full text).

more articles on Al-Ahram weekly online, January 8, 2014:

  • The tactics of protest, by Dina Ezzat: though Morsi’s trial was postponed, the Muslim Brotherhood and its sympathisers promise continued escalated confrontation;
  • The road towards full citizenship, by Dina Ezzat: For prominent Coptic political figure George Ishak the country’s new constitution is a good basis for citizenship for all Egyptian;
  • Looking beyond the numbers: Niveen Wahish spoke to Ragui Assaad, a professor of planning and public affairs at the University of Minnesota and the lead researcher of the Egyptian Labour Market Panel Survey.

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