News / Middle East

Egypt Referendum Passes, With Controversy

Egypt Referendum Passes, With Controversyi
January 16, 2014 4:27 PM
Egyptian officials say preliminary results indicate voters have endorsed the nation's military-backed constitution. But the divisive referendum has left at least a dozen people dead, hundreds injured and hundreds more in jail.
Watch video report by Elizabeth Arrott
Edward Yeranian
Egyptian officials say preliminary results indicate voters have endorsed the nation's military-backed constitution.

The outcome is seen as nudging army chief General Abdel Fatteh el Sissi closer to a bid for the presidency.

But violence surrounding the divisive referendum has left at least a dozen people dead, hundreds injured and hundreds more in jail. 

Student supporters of Egypt's now banned Muslim Brotherhood chanted slogans against the country's interim government Thursday at Cairo University, as election officials tallied votes in the two-day referendum on a new constitution.

​The vote comes six months after Egypt's military toppled the country's first democrqatically-elected President Mohamed Morsi in July after large protests against him and his government.

Initial reports show the new charter winning overwhelming approval of those who voted.

Final vote counts from around the country scrolled across the screens of Egyptian satellite channels throughout the day, showing “yes” votes in most districts of between 90 and 98 percent.  Many analysts say the Muslim Brotherhood's decision to boycott the referendum may explain the lack of a significant “no” vote.

Egypt Draft Constitution

  • Limits president to two four-year terms
  • President appoints prime minister with approval of parliament
  • President can dismiss government with approval of parliament
  • Defense minister must be a military officer
  • Civilians can be tried in military courts for certain offenses
  • Islamic law is the basis for legislation
  • Political parties cannot be based on religion, or have paramilitary components
The new constitution, if it is approved, will replace a 2012 charter adopted during the year-long tenure of ousted Islamist President Morsi. The 2012 constitution was approved by more than 63 percent of those voting, but turnout was only 33 percent.  Egyptian TV says at least half of Egypt's 51 million eligible voters turned out for the latest referendum.

One international monitor told Sky News Arabia that he and his team had “not seen any serious irregularities.”

A spokeswoman for Egypt's independent Ibn Khaldoun Center told a news conference the electoral commission had acted swiftly at reports of irregularities.

She says these included late openings at polling stations and impromptu closures for pretexts like eating and prayers.

Al Jazeera Direct, which secular political groups argue supports the Muslim Brotherhood, showed an amateur video in which it claimed to show the same person at a polling station voting more than once.  VOA could not confirm the authenticity of the video.

Egypt's Interior Ministry indicated it had arrested more than 400 people, many of them Muslim Brotherhood supporters, for carrying weapons and other legal infractions during the referendum.

Authorities have been cracking down on the Brotherhood since Morsi's removal, declaring it a terrorist group and arresting many of its leaders. The former president and others are on trial for allegedly inciting violence. More than a 1,000 of pro-Morsi supporters have been killed in the crackdown.

  • People line up to vote in the Egypt's constitutional referendum in Cairo, Jan. 15, 2014.
  • A voter inks her finger after casting her ballot in a two-day constitutional referendum in Cairo, Jan. 15, 2014.
  • Election workers and ballot boxes are seen inside a polling station during a referendum on the new constitution in Cairo, Jan. 15, 2014.
  • Egyptians women show their inked fingers after casting their votes at a polling station in Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • Members of the Egyptian Interior Minister's security detail stand guard as voters line up at a polling station on the first day of voting in the country's constitutional referendum in the Zamalek neighborhood in Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • A woman holds a child as she casts her vote in the country's constitutional referendum in Hawamdaya, south of Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • Coptic Pope Tawadros II shows his ink-stained finger after voting in the country's constitutional referendum at a polling station in Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • A soldier stands behind a protective barrier of sand bags outside a polling station in Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • Supporters of the Egyptian Army and Army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi hold posters and shout slogans in front of a damaged building of a court complex after an explosion in Imbaba, north of Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
  • A view of the front of a damaged building of a court complex after an explosion in Imbaba, north of Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.

Egyptian editor and publisher Hisham Kassem said he was both pleased and surprised by the large turnout for the constitutional referendum, because he thought many Egyptians had grown disaffected by the numerous ballots since the 2011 revolution.

"I am delighted that political fatigue did not hit the bulk of the Egyptian people," said Kassem. "I was really concerned... that Egyptians would have given up on democracy by now.  I went and voted myself, so I was standing there quietly listening to people.  [The voting] was self-motivated."

Kassem indicated it would have been preferable if the interim government had allowed “more space for the 'no' campaign,” but he argued that campaigning by Muslim Brotherhood activists in recent months had raised emotions, ending with “excess violence.”

If approved, this week's referendum would be followed by elections for a new president and parliament. El Sissi - who removed Morsi from power last year - is widely seen as a presidential favorite.

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Comment Sorting
by: Prudent from: usa
January 19, 2014 9:27 PM
Our children will have a better chance to live free of terrorism, thanks to the courage of the Egyptian people who are facing the Muslim Brotherhood's tyranny. Go Egypt!

by: PermReader
January 16, 2014 12:45 PM
Crocodile`s tears on the terrorist gangs who violated the democratic election .The election`s result is the great slap in the face of the chief pro-Islamist in America!

by: Salisbury from: UK
January 16, 2014 7:56 AM
Al Sissi is the best thing for Egypt..!! and by extension - for the world... he is fighting the Muslim Brotherhood - a terrorist organization modeled on the Nazi Party... if Germany would have confronted that same menace in 1936, we would not have had to experience the horrors of WW2.

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
January 16, 2014 7:45 AM
Wonderful reportage. The Egyptians have proved their choice of freedom, liberty and human rights to the draconian Muslim Brotherhood medieval setback. The overwhelming support the Egyptians showed and practiced in this referendum should be enough for the Brotherhood to know that the game is over for them. There is now no way it can want to insist on Morsi against the will of the generality of Egyptians who have chosen to do without him. The initial fear was whether a majority of Egyptians was going to heed the boycott call and stay away from voting; but that didn't come off. What remains is for the Muslim Brotherhood and its backers to see this as a function of democracy work in progress and submit to the will of the people, join hands with the rest in the polity to move the country forward again.

For now the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed, and the good thing those who still want to be called Muslim Brotherhood members should do for themselves and the country is hands off terrorism and violence, pipe low since what they once believed in no longer exists, and join hands with the rest of the country to try to reactivate the political process in Egypt until such a time as the military will feel safe enough to remain in their barracks. Of course the whole of the Middle East is a militarized zone, so it may not be good enough even to ask the military to stay far from politics in the region.

But taking a cue from Nigeria, the Egyptians should accept the situation as it is now as the most viable option open to them, perhaps encourage General Abdel Fatteh el-Sissi to run for political office as a civilian to be able to hold the wild boys in the barracks for a period of civilian rule - full cycle (two or three terms as approved in the constitution) - during which comprehensive constitution can be drawn up that places Egypt's military in its right perspective in a democracy.

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
January 16, 2014 6:11 AM
According to democracy process Egyptian style, strong man General Abdel Fatteh el-Sissi will be elected as a President of Egypt by 99.99 percent of votes. Right?
In Response

by: senawy from: Egypt
January 16, 2014 8:17 AM
It is the painful truth , Cuz it return us to the unjust military rule once again (killing people ,Freedom go again ,and injustice police officers ...etc ).

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