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



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

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

By the Numbers

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