Monday,11 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)
Monday,11 December, 2017
Issue 1180, (16-22 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Ticking right

The majority of political forces voted for the new constitution, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Ahead of the two-day referendum on the new constitution which ended yesterday, most political parties mobilised the public for a yes vote. Apart from the Muslim Brotherhood, now labelled a terrorist organisation and which called for a boycott, only a few parties and youth movements campaigned for a no vote, and timidly at that.

The Salafist Nour Party and liberal and leftist parties campaigned for the vote. The Tamarod (Rebel) movement that was key in the popular rebellion against ousted President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, also called for a yes vote.

Deputy head of the Conference Party Salah Hassaballah noted that Egyptians who participated in the referendum wanted to send a message to the world, that what happened on 30 June was a “real revolution not a military coup”.

Hassaballah said the Brotherhood no longer had an impact on people.

A vote for the constitution, which Amr Moussa, head of the constitution drafting panel, predicted will be around 75 per cent, would mark a significant milestone in the transition roadmap announced on 3 July. A significant number of challenges will remain, however.

The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, of which interim Prime Minister Hazem Al-Beblawi hails, announced that it strongly supported the new constitution. Party chairman Mohamed Abul-Ghar was a member of the constitution committee.

The ultraconservative Nour Party, which backed the 2012 constitution, also backed its replacement. Nour’s active participation in drafting the new constitution and mobilising public support for it has largely isolated the Brotherhood and helped create national consensus ahead of the vote.

Nagui Al-Shehabi, chairman of the liberal Geel (Generation) Party, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the scene on Tuesday expressed the high turnout. “The turnout was unprecedented and historic. It is considered the third massive turnout after 30 June and 26 July. The whole scene shows optimism as it proved that the Egyptians are keen on implementing and completing the roadmap and building a democratic state,” Al-Shehabi said.

“The organisation,” he says, “was just perfect including protecting the citizens and the polls.”

Egypt’s army had promised heightened security for the two-day voting process, in cooperation with the police.

Abdel-Gaffar Shokr, head of the Popular Coalition Party, said, “Tuesday witnessed huge numbers of voters as people stood in long queues waiting for their turn to vote,” Shokr told the Weekly.

Shokr, who is also the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) deputy chairman, said: “From the operations room of the NCHR, we monitor the violations and complaints throughout Egyptian governorates. From my own follow up, the complaints were few.

“Most of them were related to the delay of opening the voting committee in some areas, while some voters didn’t find their name on the voting lists. However, the complaints didn’t represent a trend,” Shokr said.

Head of the Youth Party Ahmed Abdel-Hadi believes that the Egyptian people “put an end to their battle with terrorism practised by the fascist group the Muslim Brotherhood which suddenly jumped to rule Egypt.

“Surveys and mass rallies revealed the sweep of the yes vote on the constitution in the face of opposition forces. Low-income citizens joined the battle in defence of the country’s stability and also in support of [Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah) Al-Sisi’s candidacy for the presidential elections,” Abdel-Hadi said.

On Tuesday, former presidential candidate and the founder of the Popular Current Party, Hamdeen Sabahi, said he could not find his name in the voter registration list at his usual polling station and as a result did not vote in the country’s constitutional referendum.

After conducting an online search for his polling station, Sabahi found that his name is registered at a polling station in Saudi Arabia. Sabahi, who came third in 2012’s presidential elections, urged the authorities to correct the error to enable him to vote on Wednesday, his Popular Current said.

Ziad Al-Uleimi, former MP and member of the youth coalitions that forced former president Hosni Mubarak from office in 2011, said he did not believe that the referendum will bring anything good. Al-Uleimi, also a member of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, said loyalists of Mubarak’s now defunct National Democratic Party (NDP), popularly called fulul, had recently regrouped to support the new constitution and back Al-Sisi for president. “As a result, the referendum will pave the way for Al-Sisi and the return of the Mubarak regime in a different shape, rather than solving the country’s deep political crisis. We need an inclusive civilian democracy.”

The space for political forces campaigning against the vote was narrow. Even the Strong Egypt Party, one of the main political parties which campaigned for a no vote, decided days before the referendum to boycott it.

The Strong Egypt Party, which supported the 30 June protests and Morsi’s ouster but has since criticised the transitional authorities, has condemned what it described as a “crackdown” on those campaigning for a no vote, and decided to boycott the poll in protest.

The party held a press conference on Monday in Cairo to announce their decision to boycott the referendum. In a statement, the party cited several measures as compromising the democratic principles of the vote: the right of voters to cast their ballots outside their area of residence; the mass media propaganda campaign and the exploitation of public money and resources behind the ‘vote yes’ campaign; and the arrest of Strong Egypt members who opposed the constitution.

In the press release, the Strong Egypt Party, headed by former presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, stated that the party will “always support legal mechanisms as a means to resolve political disputes, provided that the process is conducted with guarantees regarding the political and civil liberties of citizens”.

At least seven Strong Party Egypt members have been arrested in Cairo and elsewhere in recent weeks for possession of posters supporting the no-vote campaign. Also on Monday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the arrests.

In a statement Human Rights Watch said, “Egyptian citizens should be free to vote for or against the new constitution, not fear arrest for simply campaigning for a no vote.”

The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition, also boycotted the vote. In their statement, issued Sunday, the Anti-Coup Alliance criticised the media campaign that is manipulating the masses to vote yes, as well as the unknown consequences of voting no, and the possible fraud during the referendum because “the military and police forces are not objective as they are part of the coup.” The alliance also named the constitution “The Black Document” and proclaimed themselves on a mission to rescue Egypt from what they called “a bloody coup”.

The Salafist Watan Party and modern Islamist Wasat Party also boycotted the referendum. Moreover, the 6 April activist youth movement, one of the forefront groups which participated in the 25 January and 30 June revolutions, affirmed their commitment to the boycott of the referendum as announced in a press conference on 8 January, reflecting the will of the group’s members after an internal vote. Nevertheless, the revolutionary youth movement denied in a recent statement any collaboration with the Anti-Coup Alliance aiming to scrap the constitution and disturb the referendum process.

Members of 6 April distanced themselves from their alliance counterparts whom they described as “traitors who sought authority over the blood of the Egyptian people”. The movement said it would not “stain its hands” by cooperating with the alliance and “creating a state of chaos and harassing security forces in order to entice clashes.”

In addition, 6 April said it participated in monitoring the referendum from outside the polling stations despite its announcement that it will boycott the vote. The group added that it will list violations that may take place outside polling stations during the voting. The movement will also issue periodic reports to assess the referendum process.

“The decision of the Supreme Elections Committee to prevent the movement from monitoring the referendum [inside polling stations] aims to keep us away from listing any violations that might occur during the voting and counting process,” the statement added.

 

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