Thousands of Egyptians protest over constitution
Thousands of Egyptians rallied yesterday at the presidential palace and Cairo’s Tahrir Square against the bitterly contested fundamentalist-drafted constitution and irregularities claimed to be widespread during last weekend’s first round of voting in the referendum on the document.
The 10-faction opposition National Salvation Front urged supporters to “take to the streets . . . to defend their freedoms, prevent fraud and bring down the illegitimate draft constitution”.
Demonstrators gathering outside the presidential palace in the Heliopolis district of Cairo chanted, “Leave, leave”, as Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi arrived for work.
Opposition complaints were bolstered by the justice ministry’s decision to investigate allegations that not all polling stations were monitored by fully fledged judges in accordance with the electoral law, but by court employees and civil servants.
In a tour last Saturday of a dozen polling stations in the company of Irish Ambassador Isolde Moylan, The Irish Times visited one where the supervisor admitted he was not a judge but an official “from the attorney general’s office”.
Many judges refused to supervise voting in protest against Mr Morsi’s decree putting his decisions above judicial review and the siege of the constitutional court by Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Judges have criticised Mr Morsi’s rush to adopt a constitution that has attracted the support of just 56.5 per cent of the one-third of registered voters who participated in the first round.
Following a demonstration by judges and prosecutors charging presidential interference in the independence of the judiciary, Egyptian prosecutor general Talaat Ibrahim Abdullah, appointed three weeks ago, tendered his resignation.
Mr Abdullah is seen as sympathetic to fundamentalists. His forced resignation, which awaits acceptance by the high court, was called a “crime” by the Muslim Brotherhood.
While the constitution is expected to be adopted by a majority of those voting, the combination of the No vote and abstentions could deprive the document of legitimacy.
But Mr Morsi is likely to insist that the election of a lower house of parliament takes place within 60 days. Ahead of this, he could come under pressure to impose new taxes on cigarettes, cement, alcohol, electricity and cooking gas, which he had postponed until after the referendum.