News / Middle East

Egypt Constitutional Referendum – What the Results Mean

An Egyptian voter casts her vote in a polling station in Cairo, Egypt, March 19, 2011
An Egyptian voter casts her vote in a polling station in Cairo, Egypt, March 19, 2011

Egyptians, voting in a nationwide referendum Saturday, overwhelmingly approved changes to their constitution. The measure was considered to be the first major step on their path toward democracy after a popular revolt earlier this year toppled the regime of long-time President Hosni Mubarak.

More than 14.1 million voters, or 77.2 percent of those who took part in the poll, approved the constitutional amendments, while 4 million, or 22.8 percent, voted against them. The government said Sunday the 41 percent turnout among the 45 million eligible voters broke all records for recent elections. Davin Hutchins spoke to VOA’s Cairo Bureau Chief Elizabeth Arrott about the meaning of the vote.

Arrott: Egyptians were voting on a package of amendments to their constitution, a simple “yes or no vote” on a measure that would open up new elections to more people and more parties than in the past. There are also provisions on limits on the terms that a president can serve – two four-year terms – something that was part of the protests that led to all this. People were tired of having a president who had been in office for nearly thirty years, and those 14 million [who voted in favor] represent about 77 percent of the voters [who took part in the poll]. So it was quite an overwhelming victory in favor of the amendments.

Hutchins: Do you think that the Muslim Brotherhood and remnants of the NDP (National Democratic Party) played a big role in getting out the vote, in getting people to show up at the polls?

Arrott: Yes, both of these groups used their considerable experience in organizing their followers in the lead-up to the referendum. The NDP, because it was the main force in politics over the last 30 years, and the Brotherhood, although it is banned, it was very good, as many outlawed groups are, in figuring out alternative ways of keeping their base together. And both of them are in favor of the amendments, which they have been arguing would help Egypt get going to move to a new government.

Hutchins: Did you get a sense that the pro-democracy youth groups that we have been interviewing on VOA, stayed away from the polls because they wanted an entirely re-written constitution. Do you think their attitude toward the referendum changed the end results at all?

Arrott: They certainly did not get the numbers they expected. Actually, it seemed that they were out in as much force as they could muster. Most of them, as you know, had wanted a whole new constitution, arguing that there is no point in patching up a flawed one. But they were outvoted despite their online campaign and street effort to get people to vote “no.”

It’s interesting that most of the “no” votes came from Cairo and Alexandria, the big urban centers. There was very little from the conservative countryside, where people may place more faith in the military, the Brotherhood and the remnants of the NDP as still being someone who could lead the passage of chance.

Hutchins: And, finally, looking to the future – how will this weekend’s results shape the parliamentary and the presidential elections to be held later in the year?

Arrott: It does pave the way to keep to the schedule that the military, which has been in charge since President Mubarak stepped down last month, has come up with. And that has the parliamentary election, followed by the presidential election, [to be held] in about the next six months. And that is what perhaps those who were in favor of a “no” vote were most concerned about – more than about the constitution, that the process was too rushed. And they felt that this timetable would give an advantage to the established groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood and the NDP, to get organized, and certainly those fears seem to have been borne out to some extent by the results we saw on Sunday.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs