News / Middle East

    Egypt's Sissi in Focus Amid Draft Constitutional Vote

    Egypt's Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at El-Thadiya presidential palace, Cairo, Nov. 14, 2013.
    Egypt's Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at El-Thadiya presidential palace, Cairo, Nov. 14, 2013.
    Reuters
    Egyptians voted on Tuesday for the first time since the military deposed president Mohamed Morsi on a draft constitution that may set the stage for a presidential bid by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-El Sissi.
     
    At least nine people were killed in confrontations between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and police, official sources said. Two small bombs went off, one in Cairo and one in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, injuring no one.
     
    The Brotherhood, still backing Morsi who is now in jail, has called for a boycott and protests over the draft, which deletes Islamic language written into the basic law approved a year ago when he was still in office. It also strengthens state bodies that defied him: the army, the police and the judiciary.
     
    While a state crackdown has erased many freedoms won by the 2011 uprising against president Hosni Mubarak, anticipation of more stable government sent the stock market on Tuesday to its highest level since his downfall. The main index exceeded its January 2011 peak, in its fourth straight gain.
     
    The referendum is a milestone in the political transition plan the army-backed government has billed as a path back to democracy even as it presses a fierce crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best organised party until last year.
     
    A presidential election could follow as early as April.
     
    Echoing a view widely held in Egypt, a senior European diplomat said el Sissi would probably announce his candidacy in the next few days - a prospect that will delight supporters but could stir more conflict with his Islamist opponents.
     
    With little or no sign of a campaign against the draft - one moderately Islamist party says its activists were arrested while campaigning for a no-vote - it is expected to pass easily, backed by many Egyptians who staged mass protests on June 30 against Morsi and the Brotherhood before his removal.
     
    “We are here for two reasons: to eradicate the Brotherhood and take our rights in the constitution,” said Gamal Zeinhom, a 54-year-old standing in line at a Cairo polling station.
     
    Others cited a desire to bring stability to Egypt after three years of turmoil.
     
    Failed experiment
     

    El Sissi ousted Morsi, Egypt's first freely-elected head of state, last July. His Islamist opponents say he is the mastermind of a coup that kindled the worst internal strife in Egypt's modern history and revived an oppressive police state.
     
    But after a failed experiment with democracy, many are weary of the upheaval that has gripped this nation of 85 million and shattered its economy. They see El Sissi, 59, as someone who can stabilize and protect Egypt from what local media depict as foreign and domestic conspiracies to divide the nation.
     
    El Sissi inspected a polling station after voting began, dressed in desert-colored fatigues and wearing his trademark dark sunglasses. The two-day vote ends on Wednesday.
     
    A Sissi presidency would mark a return to the days when the post was controlled by army men - a pattern broken by Morsi's year in office.
     
    Brotherhood supporters staged protests in at least four cities. Police arrested 65 Brotherhood supporters who were trying to obstruct voting, security officials said.
     
    The bloodiest clashes were in Sohag, south of Cairo, and in Giza on the outskirts of the capital, the health ministry said in an emailed statement.
     
    Local officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said four Brotherhood supporters were killed in Sohag and more than 20 wounded, in addition to three policemen.
     
    But the Interior Ministry said Brotherhood supporters had killed four people and wounded nine more, including a police officer, when they opened fire on passers-by to stop them reaching polling stations, the state news agency reported.
     
    Four people were also killed in clashes in Giza, two of whom were shot head in the village of Kerdasa, a bastion of Islamist support. Security sources identified them as Brotherhood supporters.
     
    A man was also killed in Beni Suef, south of Cairo.
     
    The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), a Geneva-based group that works to uphold the rule of law, described the draft constitution as highly flawed.
     
    “The referendum campaign has taken place within a context of fear, intimidation and repression, calling into question the fairness of the entire process,” it said in a statement.
     
    The government has recently escalated its crackdown on the Brotherhood, declaring it a “terrorist organization” on Dec. 25. Al Qaeda-inspired militants have stepped up attacks on security forces since Morsi's ouster.
     
    While the government has linked the attacks to the Brotherhood, the group has repeatedly said it is a non-violent movement committed to peaceful resistance to the state.
     
    But the security clampdown - hundreds of Islamists have been killed and thousands arrested - has taken the steam out of protests while fuelling anger among young Islamists. Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders have been arrested and are on trial.
     
    Underlining how the political picture has changed since Morsi's downfall, Mubarak asked for permission to vote in this referendum, his lawyer Fareed El Deeb said. It was not immediately clear whether Mubarak - who faces retrial for his role in the killing of protesters in 2011 - would get to vote.
     
    While Western states have criticized the crackdown and called for inclusive politics, they have put little pressure on Cairo. Egypt, which controls the Suez Canal, has been a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Middle East since the 1970s, when it became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.
     
    The government has been supported by Gulf Arab states hostile to the Brotherhood. They jumped to Egypt's rescue after Morsi's overthrow, offering billions of dollars in aid.
     
    The U.S. Congress' new spending bill would restore more than $1.5 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt, largely cut off after Morsi's ouster, but would make the funding conditional on Egypt taking steps toward restoring democracy.

    You May Like

    S. African Farmer Goes From 'Voice in the Wilderness' to Sought-After Expert

    Margarest Roberts has authored more than 40 books on subjects like organic farming, urban agriculture, herbs and ‘superfoods'

    Millennial Men Prefer Bucks Over Beauty

    U.S. men aged 18 to 34 say the finances of a potential significant other are more important than her looks

    Multimedia Lebanese Clown Troupe Marks Valentine's Day Amid Stink

    Activists resort to unusual approaches to raise public awareness of country’s ongoing trash crisis

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: azza radwan sedky from: Cairo, Egypt
    January 15, 2014 4:05 AM
    A vote on a Constitution it was not. It was "A Vote of Confidence, no more no less" http://azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt/2014/01/a-vote-of-confidence-no-more-no-less.html

    by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
    January 15, 2014 3:59 AM
    Overthrowing freely-elected president cannot be a democratic process. It's a highway robbery! The victims are innocent civilians who paid heavy prices....and we all should know now who are the real losers!!

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.