Egypt claims constitution approved by voters
Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood yesterday declared that the first post-uprising constitution has been adopted by a 64 per cent majority of voters in the country’s two-phase referendum.
The claim was disputed by the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, which contended that “fraud and violations” had distorted the outcome of the referendum conducted on the last two Saturdays.
Front member Amr Hamzawy stated, “We are asking the [electoral] commission to investigate the irregularities before announcing official results”, due out today.
The opposition argues the constitution, drafted by a fundamentalist-dominated constituent assembly, does not guarantee equal rights for all citizens, enshrines Muslim canon law, and provides for Sunni clerical interpretation of provisions.
Human Rights Watch has criticised the rushed process of securing the constitution’s adoption and the document’s failure to protect freedom of religion and expression and acceptance of military trials for civilians.
Unofficial results of the second round showed 71 per cent said Yes while 29 per cent voted No. In the first round, 57 per cent voted in favour and 43 per cent against.
The Brotherhood claimed a resounding victory but this could prove to be hollow. Only 31 per cent of registered voters participated in the second round, fewer even than the 32 per cent voting in the first. Well organised on the grassroots level in areas taking part in the second round, the Brotherhood not only expected a solid majority but also greater numbers of voters going to the polls. The Brotherhood’s constituency could be deserting.
Low turnout in both rounds means that only 10.5 million out of 51 million registered Egyptians voted Yes while nearly six million voted No and two-thirds either boycotted the referendum or could not be persuaded to vote.
Lack of a solid mandate and opposition charges of irregularities deprives the constitution of legitimacy, ensuring that its opponents will continue their campaign for cancellation, risking violent clashes between supporters of the two camps. At least 10 people were killed and 700 wounded in violence ahead of the referendum.
While anticipating victory, the Brotherhood, and Mr Morsi personally, sustained a major defeat when, several hours before polling stations closed, vice-president Mahmoud Mekki, a Brotherhood sympathiser, resigned.
An independent judge who fought for judicial reform during the rule of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, Mr Mekki initially declared his intention to step down early last month, before Mr Morsi granted himself sweeping powers and steamrollered the vote on the constitution.
Although Mr Morsi refused earlier, he may have to accept now since Mr Mekki announced his decision on state television.
Seven of Mr Morsi’s 17-member advisory team and other senior officials have resigned protesting his policies while the majority of judges refused to supervise the referendum, diminishing its legality.
Defections and turmoil
In spite of defections and turmoil on the political scene, Mr Morsi has, once again, displayed indifference to opposition accusations that he is an autocrat determined to consolidate the Brotherhood’s grip on power.
While largely honouring his pledge to appoint secularists and liberals to parliament’s 270-seat upper house among the 90 he is empowered to name, he also chose 17 fundamentalists. The appointee from the Gamaa Islamiya, Safwat Abdel Ghani, was accused of involvement in the 1979 assassination of president Anwar Sadat and of conspiring to kill Egyptian author Farag Fouda.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party already holds 105 of the 180 elected seats in the council, the ultraorthodox fundamentalist bloc 45; secular parties have only 26 and independents four.
Among the other nominees are eight women, 12 Coptic Christians, five clerics from al-Azhar, the premier Sunni juridical institution, and two revolutionaries wounded during the 2011 uprising.
Mr Morsi has said he would transfer legislative powers to the council until a new lower house, the people’s assembly, is elected and seated. If the unofficial results are confirmed, a fresh assembly election is to be held within 60 days. However, Egyptians appear to be suffering from voter fatigue which could seriously undermine their democratic experiment.