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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

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.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid