Islamists declare first-round victory
The Muslim Brotherhood yesterday declared that Egypt’s contested constitution had secured the backing of a majority of voters in Saturday’s first round of voting, although civil rights groups claimed fraud and called for a repeat vote.
Unofficial results show 56.5 per cent approved the constitution, drafted by Brotherhood and ultra-orthodox Salafi representatives, while 43.5 per cent surprised both Brotherhood and opposition by voting no.
However, two-thirds of the 24 million registered voters in participating provinces did not go to the polls, raising concerns that if turnout is also low in the second round next Saturday, the disputed constitution will not have sufficient legitimacy to define Egypt’s new political, social, and economic system.
Rights organisations said judges did not properly supervise voting and counting, and that women and Christians were excluded from polling stations. The election commission was accused of failing to investigate 3,000 irregularities.
In spite of the 2011 uprising that toppled authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, Bahi El-Din Hassan of the Cairo Institute of Human Rights said, “We had a referendum like those held during the Mubarak era” during which fraudulent elections were the norm.
Similar accusations were levelled by the opposition, which had called for the no vote. El-Sayyed Badawy, chairman of the Wafd party, Egypt’s oldest and a member of the 10-faction National Salvation Front, pointed out to The Irish Times that Cairo, Egypt’s largest city, had voted no by 56.9 per cent and the industrial hub of Gharbiya, a Wafd stronghold, had rejected the document by 52 per cent.
“The fact that many voted no is very good in this tense atmosphere,” he said. “Voters are not saying no to the constitution, but no to the Islamist current, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis who are trying to hijack our country.”
He predicted that the Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, would call for a no vote during the second round but said the constitution would be adopted. “The Brotherhood will insist on the constitution, even if it has the approval of only one million voters” more than those opposing it.
In parliamentary elections, due within 60 days if the constitution is approved, he said the Brotherhood and the Salafis, which won 60 per cent of seats in last year’s elections, would suffer serious losses and the opposition would be better placed to amend or drop the constitution. “We will not surrender to those who made this constitution,” Dr Badawi said.