Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1179, (9 - 15 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Make or break

Next week’s referendum on the new constitution is turning into a vote on the post-Morsi roadmap, writes Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

The 14 and 15 January referendum marks the first time Egyptians have gone to the polls since Mohamed Morsi’s removal. As such the vote will be as much about public confidence in the roadmap as approval of the redrafted constitution. Amid Muslim Brotherhood threats to disrupt the ballot and security officials’ assurances that everything will run smoothly officials are crossing their fingers the public will turn out in large numbers to give a thumbs up to Egypt’s post-Morsi political dispensation.

A majority of judges refused to take part in supervising the 2012 referendum on the constitution drafted by an Islamist-dominated constituent assembly. Led by the Judges Club and its chairman Ahmed Al-Zend, they said they would not participate in monitoring a national vote that did not serve the interests of the Egyptian people.

A little over 12 months later though and the referendum on the post-30 June constitution will be conducted under full judicial supervision and in the presence of international monitors. Judges say they will supervise the vote next Tuesday and Wednesday “out of national duty and because of a strong belief the newly-drafted charter serves the nation”.

Deputy Chairman of the Judges Club Abdallah Fathi told Al-Ahram Weekly that “the refusal of a majority of judges to supervise the 2012 referendum stripped the constitution of legitimacy.”

“The 2012 referendum was supervised mainly by judges affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood and lacked the necessary conditions for transparency,” claimed Fathi. “Now a majority of judges believe in the revised constitution finalised by the 50-member committee last December, they will do their best to ensure the vote bears all the hallmarks of integrity and transparency.”

The Cairo Judges Club has unanimously agreed judges affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood must be barred from playing any role in supervising next week’s referendum, says Fathi. “Those judges who joined the Brotherhood and called themselves Judges for the Sake of Egypt or the Current of Independent Judiciary will be excluded from playing a supervisory role on the grounds they have affiliated themselves with a terrorist group.”

A seven-member Supreme Elections Committee (SEC) has the final say in supervising next week’s referendum. Headed by chairman of Cairo Appeals Court Nabil Salib, it includes Ezzat Abdel-Gawwad and Mohamed Hossam, first and second deputy chairmen of the Court of Cassation, Essameddin Abdel-Aziz and Gamal Taha of the State Council, and Sabri Hamed and Ayman Kamel, the chairmen of Alexandria and Tanta Appeal Courts.A further six judges act as SEC reserve members.

“The number of judges supervising the referendum on 14 and 15 January was boosted from 14,000 to 16,000 to ensure full judicial supervision of all 352 main polling stations and 30,000 auxiliary ones,” says SEC spokesman Nasreddin Shiashi. Judges will be supported by state employees from the court and prosecution authorities and where possible will be assigned districts close to their place of residence.  

On Sunday the SEC issued a statement outlining the responsibilities of judges. They include revising voter lists and ensuring security forces are available to prevent campaigning on ballot day. “The vote will begin at 9am and end at 9pm though judges do have the authority to allow more time if necessary,” said the statement.

When polling stations close on the first day of the referendum it will be up to the supervising judges to oversee the sealing of ballot boxes with red wax and ensure they are secured. At the end of the second day judges in auxiliary polling stations will take charge of the count and send the detailed returns to the nearest main polling station. Main polling stations will then send all results in their districts to the SEC’s headquarters in Cairo.

The SEC is solely authorised to license local and foreign civil society organisations seeking to monitor the referendum. According to the SEC statement, NGOs affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood will be barred from any monitoring role. In the 2012 referendum the majority of NGOs granted permission to take part in monitoring belonged to the Brotherhood.

SEC has indicated that 6,000 local and foreign monitors will be allowed to monitor the poll as opposed to 17,000 in 2012. “Foreign monitors will include the Jimmy Carter Institute, the Arab League, the European Union (EU), Transparency International and the International Institute for Democracy,” said the statement.

“The number of eligible voters is estimated at 53,423,485,” says Shiashi, up by 1,504,619 on 2012.

More than 200,000 police will take part in securing the vote. Military spokesmen have indicated that they will be supplemented by army personnel.  

On Monday interim President Adli Mansour amended the 1956 law on political rights so that voters are not restricted to casting their ballots at the polling station closest to their registered address. Mansour issued a decree that will allow specially designated polling stations to receive votes from citizens no longer residing at their officially listed addresses.

In 2012 Mohamed Morsi issued a decree that effectively barred anyone not living at their registered addresses from voting. “The Brotherhood then paid members thousands of pounds to help them return to their registered addresses and vote,” says Fathi. Voters in parliamentary polls in 2011, as well as the presidential election and constitutional referendum in 2012, were obliged to cast their votes at polling stations linked to the addresses on their national identity card or passport.

The Muslim Brotherhood has announced it will boycott the referendum though many political analysts believe the group’s members could turn out in their thousands to vote no in a bid to strip the referendum of legitimacy.

The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Free Egyptian Party, Karama Party, Arab Nasserist Party and the Salafist Nour Party are among the political parties actively campaigning for a yes vote. As part of the “Read Your Constitution” campaign the Popular Current staged rallies in Giza on Friday and in Minya on Saturday in coordination with the Egyptian Social Democratic, Tagammu, Nasserist and Karama parties, along with the Kifaya and Tamarod movements.

The Nour Party, which backed the 2012 constitution, is also backing its replacement. The party is planning a major rally next Sunday at which it will encourage its supporters to vote for the amended charter.  

Misr Al-Qaweya (Strong Egypt) Party, which rejected the Muslim Brotherhood-drafted constitution in 2012, is one of only a handful of political groups calling for a no vote. It is joined by the Revolutionary Socialists, the 6 April Movement, the Revolutionary Path Front and the Salafist Front.

Egyptian expatriates began voting in the constitutional referendum yesterday amid expectations of a low turnout. The 681,695 expatriates who registered their names on the election committee’s website will be able to vote at one of 138 designated polling station around the world between 8 and 12 January.

The count will start on Sunday evening in the 127 embassies and 11 consulates designated as polling stations. The results will then be sent to the Foreign Ministry which will forward them to the elections committee. Out of the some eight million Egyptians living abroad, only some 681,000 have registered to vote, of which 312,000 live in Saudi Arabia, 132,000 in Kuwait, 67,000 in the UAE, 42,000 in Qatar and 31,000 in the US. The rest are scattered across the world. (see pp.3&5)

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