News / Middle East

Rivals Clash Ahead of Egypt Constitution Vote

Egyptians Set to Vote on Constitution as Protests Continuei
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Al Pessin
December 14, 2012 8:59 PM
Egyptians go to the polls Saturday in the first day of voting on a controversial new constitution that critics say is too vague on important civil rights issues, and leaves the military in a position of power. There were rival protests again Friday, and VOA's Al Pessin reports from Cairo.

Watch related video by VOA's Al Pessin

Edward Yeranian
— As Egyptians prepare to vote in the first round of a constitutional referendum Saturday, both opponents and supporters of the controversial document were out in the streets to protest.

Supporters of Egypt's new draft constitution were the first to take to the streets of Cairo Friday, congregating in front of a mosque near the presidential palace after midday prayers. Protests were reported in Alexandria, where rock throwing incidents broke out, and Assiout as well.

Morsi supporters rally in Cairo ahead of Saturday's referendum on a new constitution, Dec. 14, 2012.
Morsi supporters rally in Cairo ahead of Saturday's referendum on a new constitution, Dec. 14, 2012.

In the capital, clusters of opponents of the constitution began swelling by mid-afternoon along a nearby boulevard facing the palace.

Large marches from different parts of the capital were set for later in the day. Liberal, Christian and leftist opponents of the new constitution complain that it was voted on in a hurried manner by a committee composed mostly of Islamists.

Secular opponents withdrew from the body after complaining that their voices were not being heard.

Mohamed ElBaradei, who heads the opposition National Salvation Front, has urged President Mohamed Morsi to postpone the referendum, due to begin Saturday and to be staggered over two successive weekends. He calls the constitution “illegitimate” and warns that efforts will continue to have it annulled.

ElBaradei warned Islamists not to try to impose their vision of society on all Egyptians. He said the proposed constitution and the referendum are not legitimate, and that the opposition will continue to use all peaceful, legal and democratic means to stop the constitution.


  • Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans as one holds up the Quran, Islam's holy book, during a demonstration after the Friday prayer, in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 14, 2012.
  • Protesters gather for a demonstration in Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 14, 2012.
  • Supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood chant pro-Mursi slogans during a rally in Rabaa El Adaweya Mosque square in Cairo December 14, 2012.
  • A supporter of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi attends a rally in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 14, 2012. Arabic on the poster at center reads, "yes to the Egyptian constitution."
  • Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi attend rally in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 14, 2012. Opposing sides in Egypt's political crisis were staging rival rallies on Friday, the final day before voting starts on a contentious draft constitution.
  • Egyptian protesters chant slogans as they attend a demonstration in Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 14, 2012.
  • Egyptian protesters shout slogans in front of burning cars set on fire during a demonstration calling for a "No" vote in a referendum on a new constitution in the coastal city of Alexandria, Dec. 14, 2012.
  • Protesters play with a ball in front of a tank securing the area around the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 14, 2012.
  • Soldiers rest in front of the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 14, 2012.

Secular complaints

Secular activists complain the new document leaves the door open to an Islamic state, where laws and civil liberties are determined by Islamic clerics. The new document also gives the president power to neutralize the judiciary by packing the Supreme Constitutional Court with Islamists.

Egypt's Draft Constitution

  • Limits president to two four-year terms
  • Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
  • Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
  • Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
  • Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights

A spokesman for the constitutional committee which drew up the document in a marathon overnight session said a referendum is the most fair way to decide the matter. He urged Egyptians not to listen to what he calls "propaganda campaigns" and to vote to express their opinions freely and without pressure.

But on the streets of the capital, opinions are divided.

Analysts say that public opinion appears to be increasingly polarized over the issue

One man, who gave his name as Osama, conceded that the document was not perfect, but said he sees it as a step in the right direction. He said that he's out in the street to say "yes" to the new constitution, not because it is the best constitution, but because it's a step in the right direction.

Another man, Wael, who opposes the document, says it is one-sided and unfair.

"The constitution is something wrong because it's not our opinion about law and justice. It's only justice for the Brotherhood," he said.

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by: Muslim american from: Houston
December 14, 2012 12:05 PM
I am african american and I love the Muslim brotherhood and Salifis and any other group that is with the side of Allah and His Messenger.
May Allah allow his dominate law to pass. There is a bright future for Egypt.
Liberal, Secularist and Christian are all in the Mubarak Taughoot camp. The division within Egypt is living proof of why the Quran calls itself Al-Furqan then Criterion. There are two camps that have emerged the hypocrites and disbelievers on one side opposing Allah and His Messenger and the Believers on the other whom love Allah and His messenger. And Egypt is not the only place that this is taking place.

In Response

by: ben from: USA
December 14, 2012 4:57 PM
Just look at any country that adopts a Islamic theological government. Slower economic growth, lower life expectancy, less rights for women. Just look at Turky over the last decade. Once a secular nation and a rising star now it is falling off the map. not everyone believes the same things you do. And a hypocrite is someone that says something and does another if they are saying they do not support Islam and then they don't support it they are not a hypocrite. Move your family to Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia and when your mother and sisters and your daughters are stripped of the ability to go out in public without a man, cant make their own choice on who to merry let me know how you feel. I am fine with any religion Islam is simply a newer one (the bible condones slavery but modern perception has evolved) and is still evolving. Do you really think forcing people to believe something is an effective way to govern. History has proven that wrong every single time (Nazis, soviets, among others) and they were far far more organized than any Muslim state has ever been.

In Response

by: Free World from: USA
December 14, 2012 4:44 PM
If you take your religion above other religion in order build a nation, you are totally wrong. I guess if you aren't born from a Muslim family, you ain't a Muslim. So, let every citizen has their freedom of choice of their own religion.. No particular religion should be applied to control a nation.

In Response

by: Ash from: Maryland
December 14, 2012 4:02 PM
So...why do you and most immigrants internationally live in the U.S. and seek assylum in western civilised countries?! It is you who is a hypocrite and a liar.

If indeed islam is the better way...you should seek to live under its rule.

In Response

by: Jacky from: Belgium
December 14, 2012 2:52 PM
If they apply strict shariah law tourism will close down and Egypt will lose the one asset they had going for them. Many of your fellow Muslims will lose their jobs and live in poverty. Religion is supposed to bring forth spiritual happiness and enrich peoples lives. It shouldn't be dictatorial , forced on people and create more suffering in the world. Please open your eyes to this and stop walking blind.

In Response

by: ali baba from: new york
December 14, 2012 12:33 PM
you should be glad that you live in America, salifs are punch of psychopath who need medical attention and I believe that they are beyond help. Muslim brotherhood are liar and use deception. They are backward .if you like them get the fact and not the fiction. if you got the fact ,I am sure you will convert to chrisitinty


by: Jay Jardin
December 14, 2012 11:56 AM
There is no space for women in the US constitution and you do not see their 300 million people trying to change it. This is more about "my religion is better than yours" than caring for anyone. For many years the US financially supported the tyrant in Egypt. There was a fight for democracy and democracy won, respect the people's vote even if you don't like it.

In Response

by: Nick from: AZ
December 14, 2012 4:21 PM
Women have rights in almost every free country, and the women in Muslim countries know this because of globalization. If those rights were to be taken away in the modern USA, you can be damn sure 300 million people would do something about it.

I bet you could get near 50% in the USA making it a Christian Nation in the current climate, but it's illegal and it would have to sweep the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. In Eqypt right now Islamists have the Executive and overrode the judicial with a "decree" long enough to push this through and force it on the people of Egypt.

In Response

by: Ludwig Yarsdale Bigsby Jr from: New Jersey
December 14, 2012 4:13 PM
That isn't really true. Supreme Court precedent recognizes gender as a protected class in the U.S. Constitution in its interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause, which therefore includes protections for women under the laws. It's part of the Constitution.

Look it up: United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996).

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