With the referendum over the constitutional amendments that will shape Egypt’s immediate political future just days away, the country’s nascent political forces were squaring off on Sunday, scrambling to influence a choice that leaves many confused.
The Muslim Brotherhood and rump elements of the disbanded governing National Democratic Party, which both stand to gain the most from a rapid rebirth of electoral politics, support the amendments.
Arrayed against them is much, but not all, of the remaining political spectrum, centered on the young organizers behind the Tahrir Square demonstrations who fear a yes vote would ultimately rob them of their revolution.
Yet everyone agrees on two things. The referendum, which is scheduled for Saturday, will be a milestone and the first one not rigged outright in about 60 years. “Whether we accept the amendments or we reject them, either situation means a page in our history will turn,” said Amr Shubaki, a political analyst at the state-financed Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
Also, and far more important, is that the referendum floats in a sea of confusion: the military has suspended the Constitution to rule, yet is asking the public to approve the reworking of bits of it.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is running Egypt, announced a simple up or down vote on about 10 amendments. Many of them, unveiled on Feb. 25 by a special 11-member constitutional committee, come across as a reaction to the long years under President Hosni Mubarak.
Nobody knows what voter turnout will be like — whether the revolution has inspired more political consciousness, or whether the esoteric nature of the amendments will drive voters away. The success of this vote could indicate what to expect from the parliamentary elections in June and the presidential election scheduled for August.