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Egyptians Approve Constitutional Referenda



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… including provisions to bar emergency laws, limit presidents to two terms, and prevent presidents from having foreign wives. Interesting, this constitutional referendum was opposed by the young, secular, democratic protesters, but supported by the NDP (Mubarak’s old ruling part) and the Muslim Brotherhood. And yet the latter coalition won the day. But the eagerness of the voters — the lines stretched out for three hours at some points — seems hopeful for democracy in Egypt. From the New York Times:

Elated that for the first time in their lives every ballot mattered, Egyptians flocked to the polls in record numbers on Saturday to vote in a referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that will shape the country’s political future after Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow.

From this provincial capital in the Nile Delta, across the sprawling capital of Cairo and beyond, voters were already waiting when the polls opened at 8 a.m. and the lines grew throughout the day, sometimes stretching to more than three hours.

Gone was the heavy security presence of the Mubarak years, with only a few police and soldiers lingering around the crowded entrances but mostly standing apart from the proceedings.

“Before, I was not even allowed into the polling station — the police would tell me go home, we already voted on your behalf, we know what is best for Egypt better than you,” said Mohamed el-Sayid Auf, a stooped 52-year-old engineer and Muslim Brotherhood supporter voting in a poor Mansoura neighborhood.

“Now there is freedom, there is organization. The people of Egypt are happy today,” he continued. “I feel like I am flying, it is something coming from deep within my soul.”

Voters had to either accept or reject the eight amendments as a whole — all of them designed to establish the foundations for parliamentary elections in June and a presidential race in August. Most addressed some of the worst excesses of previous years — limiting the president to two four-year terms, for example, to avoid another president staying in office 30 years as Mr. Mubarak did.

The referendum itself divided political movements jousting to steer Egypt into the future. Remnants of the former ruling party, the National Democratic Party, were joined with their old enemies, the Muslim Brotherhood, in supporting the changes, while most of the leaders of the youth uprising opposed the referendum, saying they needed more time to fully overhaul the Constitution. The Muslim Brotherhood, allowed to campaign openly for the first time since it was banned in 1954, wants voters to approve the changes, saying that they will hasten a return to stability and the disbanding of the military council now running the state. But their position was widely perceived as an attempt to take early advantage of their superior experience and organization to capture a larger part of the vote.

The opponents want interim military rule in conjunction with a civilian-dominated presidential council for at least six months, preferably with an elected council to write a new Constitution before selecting a president and a Parliament.

Presidential candidate Mohammed ElBaredei was reportedly assaulted on the way to the polls, possibly as a representative of secularism. 



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