News / Africa

Egyptian Rights Groups Ask for Referendum 'Restage'

A protester looks at graffiti on cement blocks in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 16, 2012.
A protester looks at graffiti on cement blocks in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, December 16, 2012.
Edward Yeranian
Tentative results from Saturday's first round of voting in Egypt's constitutional referendum are showing a narrow lead for supporters of the document.  Opposition and civil society groups allege vote fraud, while the head of Egypt's electoral commission denied those charges.

Egyptian media and rival political groups are reporting that around 56.5 percent of voters approved the country's controversial new constitution in the first round of polling Saturday. Initial results also indicate that about one-third of 26 million eligible voters cast their ballots.

Voting, however, was marred by various irregularities and violations, according to witnesses. Civil society groups are urging the government to repeat the first round because of alleged fraud.

Opposition leader Sameh Ashour charged, in a press conference, that many of those allowed to supervise polling stations were not judges. A large portion of Egypt's judiciary boycotted the referendum, and a top judicial body, the Judges' Club, he claims, observed many non-judges overseeing the vote.

Related: VOA's Al Pessin talked with Egyptians as they cast their ballots

Ashour says it should be ample evidence that the Judges' Club, which is boycotting the referendum, determined there were 120 individuals falsely impersonating judges and allowed to supervise polling stations and vote counting.

Baha'eddin Hassan of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights told reporters that a variety of violations and fraud took place during Saturday's voting.

He says the numerous irregularities included preventing civil society groups from observing the vote, allowing members of the Muslim Brotherhood to enter polling stations, and allowing "pseudo-judges" to resort to violence and thuggery and terrorize voters.

Despite the charges, the judge who heads Egypt's High Electoral Commission, Zaghloul al-Balshi, insisted that the vote was impartial and fair.

He says the High Electoral Commission received various allegations which are creating a tempest among voters.  He says, however, that the charges are not true.

Supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party argue that a “yes” vote for the new constitution will foster stability in the country and help Egypt move forward with its transition. Opponents say the document will create instability.

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
Opposition leaders claim that the draft constitution is deliberately vague and could lead to an theocracy, where Islamic clerics vet laws and legislate morality. They warn that the document does not protect women's rights and allows the president to pack the Supreme Court.

Sayyid Bedawi, of the opposition Wafd Party, warned that secular Egyptians would continue their peaceful protests against the document.

He says the Islamists want a civil war, but that neither the opposition, nor the Egyptian people will allow them to do that.  He charges that Islamists want to cheat with the referendum, but they won't get away with it, and the crisis won't go away.

Bedawi's Wafd Party offices in Giza were attacked and set on fire Saturday.  The opposition blamed members of an extremist Salafi faction.

A final round of the two-stage referendum will take place next Saturday in 17 remaining Egyptian provinces.  About 26 million people are on the voting roles for the second round - the same number eligible in the first round which covered 10 provinces including the capital, Cairo.

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Comments
     
by: Floyd Mills from: Boulder Colorado USA
December 17, 2012 1:06 AM
To adopt a constitution the Egyptians should require the approval of at least a 2/3rds majority of the population. How can you subjugate 49% of a population and make them live under a system that the do not approve of. A constitution should be tailored to accommodate all of a countries people...or as close to that as is humanly possible. Certainly that is not what is happening in this constitutional election.

by: L Syed from: Cairo
December 16, 2012 12:51 PM
I think opposition should accept result and move forward to the General Election. If they claims they have popularity, they can win election and amend this constitution, whatever article they want. Reapeting is no end and if they win other party can also request and protest for repeat. There is not end of re-stage and there is no set rule in this case of re-stage accept allegation

by: Ela from: Cairo, Egypt
December 16, 2012 11:44 AM
Funny that the coalition will not accept any unofficial results while simultaneously releasing their own unofficial results. Their behavior is a repeat of Ahmed Shafiq's attempt to cast doubt on the Muslim Brotherhood's numbers for Morsi's victory over Shafiq in the presidential elections.
In Response

by: abdel nasser from: egypt
December 16, 2012 2:35 PM
abdel nasser said the true .you are liers and bunch of sheep

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