News / Africa

Egyptians Turn out for Referendum on Constitution

Hundreds of Egyptians line out a polling station in Cairo, March 19, 2011 as they prepare to vote on a referendum on constitutional amendments
Hundreds of Egyptians line out a polling station in Cairo, March 19, 2011 as they prepare to vote on a referendum on constitutional amendments

Multimedia

Audio

Egyptian voters came out in force Saturday for the first ballot since popular protests swept away the previous government.  Egyptians are taking part in a referendum on a package of constitutional amendments.

The chance to make their voices heard was a key demand of the protesters and Egyptians took advantage of the first chance to do so at the ballot box.  People stood in long lines outside voting stations even before they opened, a dramatic change in a country where previous votes and their predictable outcomes inspired little more than apathy.

Their choice is a simple yes or no to a set of nine changes to the constitution, written by a panel appointed by the military, leading the country since former President Hosni Mubarak stepped down last month.  Among the amendments are moves to open upcoming parliamentary and presidential races to more parties and individuals.  Another change would limit the next president to a maximum of two four-year terms.  

But some people believe the measures don't go far enough.   Salama, who gave just her first name, is a computer engineer who cast her vote in Cairo.

"I think it's better to have a new constitution," she said.  "This constitution, this kind of constitution was devised in 1971. It's full of wrong things, wrong articles and clauses.  It doesn't make any sense to amend a faulty constitution.  We need a new one."

Joining ordinary voters in calling for a no vote are many of the young activists who helped lead the protests.   So too are two of the new presidential contenders, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa and former U.N. nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei.    ElBaradei was the subject of a hostile crowd as he tried to vote Saturday, with some smashing the glass of his car as it retreated. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack.

But many more here are trying to forge ahead - peacefully - with what they see as the business at hand.

Mahmoud Nasr, an engineer at a cola company, cast his vote in favor of the changes.

After voting in the capital, Nasr argued that the amendments are enough to take Egypt to "a peaceful stage" that will allow for fair elections.    The votes for parliament and president are set for later this year.  He adds that out of those elections will come the group tasked to prepare a completely new constitution.

Other prominent opponents of the old government agree, some for a very specific reason.  Publisher Hisham Kassem is aware that pushing through with all these votes may seem hasty.

"Regardless of the fact that the time span is short, I want to see the military back in their barracks.  But I believe there will be people there who will disagree, would like to see the military stay in power for longer till they prepare for elections," said Kassem.

Kassam is acknowledging the fears of some here in Egypt that the quick schedule could favor such established groups as Mubarak's National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood.   The Brotherhood has tried to ease concerns by saying it will field candidates for only about a third of the parliamentary seats and will not have anyone running for president.

Despite the polarized views the referendum has elicited, there does appear one shared emotion.   Nagy Nassif, a supervisor in a pharmaceutical company, seemed to speak for many in the crowded polling places across the country.

After casting the first ballot of his life, Nassif said he didn't vote before because he felt no matter what he said, the government would do what it wanted.   Now, he said, he sees all these people speaking with full freedom.   What matters, he added, is that the result is in favor of the people, in favor of the country.

Preliminary results are expected Sunday.

 

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

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid