Unofficial results of Egypt's two-round constitutional referendum appear to indicate that the controversial document won overall approval by a majority of 64 percent. Many opposition figures, however, allege the vote was tainted by fraud.
Several Egyptians argued angrily at a private club in Cairo over the unofficial results of the two-round constitutional referendum, which appears to have gone to approval by about a two-thirds majority. Egypt's election commission is due to announce official results on Monday.
The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood reported on its website that in Saturday's second and final round of polling, 71 percent of those voting approved the document, while 29 percent opposed it. In the first round on December 15, 56 percent of voters approved the draft constitution.
The opposition National Salvation Front insisted Sunday that the voting was tainted by fraud. The group has agreed, however, to participate in parliamentary elections due to take place in several months.
Egyptian Voters Reflect on Referendum
(by Al Pessin/Japhet Weeks)
Egypt's Draft Constitution
Limits president to two four-year terms
Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights
Veteran Egyptian editor and publisher Hisham Kassem argues the new constitution is illegitimate both because of the process used to write it and because of the way polling was conducted to approve it.
"They rigged the election, full stop. It's blatant rigging and the constitution is null and void. It's the product of a rigged election. Apart from all the failures in procedures in drafting the constitution, it passed through a rigged election," said Kassem.
Kassem also condemned the West and the United States for what he said was “failing [Egyptians] in the battle for freedom and civil liberties.” A number of opposition leaders have blasted the West for not condemning the process used to approve Egypt's new constitution.
The majority of Egypt's judiciary refused to oversee polling and a team of mostly Islamist judges supervised the vote. Electoral official Mahmoud Abou Shousha, however, told Arab satellite channels that the justice ministry has agreed to examine complaints of fraud.
For his part, veteran Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University said that “the ballot is not infallible, but it's better than the alternatives.” He also blamed Egypt's liberals and secular activists for “the disarray in their own ranks.”
Ajami portrayed a country deeply divided, or racked by “cultural dualism,” which he says was “reflected in the referendum.” But, he minimized the importance of the constitutional feud, saying that “countries don't live in constitutions.” The old constitution, he notes, “offered no protection against tyranny.”
Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie told reporters that the referendum was “the first time in Egyptian history that a constitution was approved by popular vote.” He added that “when Egyptians speak, everyone else shuts up.”