Politics & Policy

Egypt to Vote on Constitutional Referenda

The New York Times has a good summary of what’s at stake in the upcoming vote in Egypt on changes to the constitution. The Egyptian constitution is not in effect at the moment, as the country is essentially under martial law. The amendments include an automatic expiration of emergency laws (which Mubarak kept in place for decades) after six months, at which point they are put to a vote, and limiting the president to two four-year terms. In other words: before the Egyptians elect a new president, they’re trying to make sure whoever he is can’t become another Mubarak. The provisions have divided Egyptians: 


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. 

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