News / Africa

Egyptian Expert Predicts Ratification of New Constitution

People cast their votes during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Bani Sweif, about 115 km (71 miles) south of Cairo December 22.People cast their votes during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Bani Sweif, about 115 km (71 miles) south of Cairo December 22.
People cast their votes during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Bani Sweif, about 115 km (71 miles) south of Cairo December 22.
People cast their votes during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Bani Sweif, about 115 km (71 miles) south of Cairo December 22.
James Butty
An Egyptian expert says she expects Egypt’s two-day constitutional referendum which begins Tuesday and concludes Wednesday will most likely pass by a wide margin.

Saba Mahmood, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, says if that happens it would be due largely to what she calls the political repression unleashed by the military-backed transitional government against those who disagree with the government.

“I think that it’s going to actually pass and the result is going to be that the new constitution will be ratified by a broad referendum. I think this is the result of the political repression that the military government has unleashed so that most people who disagree with the government are not really going to come out in any great numbers because they are afraid of the political repercussions,” she said.

Mahmood also says the referendum may pass because of what she calls a general nationalist fervor that has gripped Egypt in support of the military.

“It’s not necessarily total. In other words, it doesn’t mean that it has such a majority that today if fair and free elections were held the military junta would win. But on the other hand there is a nationalist fervor in support of the military because of the sheer exhaustion people feel and they want an end to the last three years of instability, Mahmood said.

The interim government has frozen the assets of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the closure of bank accounts, schools and hospitals run by the Brotherhood.

Mahmood says it is too soon to say if the freezing of Brotherhood assets might motivate more people who depend on these services to turn against the referendum.

“I think that since the banning of the welfare social services that the Brotherhood has provided in Egypt, there isn’t enough time for the repercussion of that to be felt. After all, this is a recent development and I think the effect of that ban has yet to be felt sociologically within the body politic,” Mahmood said.

She says except for slight modifications, the new constitution is not too different from the 2012 document approved under the government of now deposed President Morsi.

“For example, Article 2 which regards the Sharia as the source of all legislation in Egypt continues to be in place. Similarly, the restrictions imposed on the right of religious liberties of minorities are pretty much the same,” she said.

However, Mahmood says one dramatic change is the kind of power that the military will now be able to enjoy under the new constitution.

The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a boycott of the referendum. The Strong Egypt Party also announced Monday that it would boycott the referendum over the arrest of people campaigning against the vote.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim Monday reportedly warned supporters of ousted President Morsi that security forces will use unprecedented force against anyone attempting to disrupt the vote.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with el-Sissi on Sunday and "stressed the importance of a transparent referendum in which all Egyptians have the opportunity to cast their vote freely."

Professor Mahmood says she was not surprised that el-Sissi last week announced that he would run for president if the Egyptian people wanted him to.

“I think it was in the cards before. He has really trying to consolidate his image. When you have a military leader who rises this way, who actually bans all opposition TV channels and publications in news media, who absolutely prohibits any kind of criticism of both his public persona and the military of which he’s a part, then it’s not surprising that he would then want to contest elections. Now what those elections would be, there is going to be another farce,” Mahmood said.

She said it was ridiculous to call the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.

“If these are real charges, the only way to be able to prove them would be to bring it not to a military court but to a civilian court, to actually have a free trial and fair trial of the people who have been arrested. But none of that is being done,” Mahmood said.

Butty interview with Mahmood
Butty interview with Mahmoodi
|| 0:00:00

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

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