Sunday, December 23, 2012

Egyptians Approve First Post-Uprising Constitution

Egyptians approve first post-uprising constitution

Hatem Maher, Sunday 23 Dec 2012
Ahram Online

The second and final phase of referendum ends as around 64 per cent of Egyptians approve the country's divisive draft constitution

Egypt's hotly disputed draft constitution, the first following last year's uprising, is sure to pass after unofficial results Sunday show that around 64 per cent of Egyptians voted in favour.

A resounding victory in the second phase of the constitutional referendum gave a much-needed boost to Islamists, who believe the new constitution will pave the way for a smooth and swift transition to democracy under President Mohamed Morsi.

The Nile Delta Menoufiya Governorate, which gave former presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq a large nod of approval during June elections, marginally opposed the constitution in the second phase of the referendum, joining Cairo and Gharbiya, who voted the document down in last week's first phase.

The "yes" vote won in the first phase by a relatively narrow 56.5 per cent but was able to extend their margin of victory on Sunday.

Official results, however, are not expected until Monday.

Islamists will be looking to maintain their electoral prowess when the elections for Egypt's lower house of parliament, which was dissolved by a court order earlier this year, take place within two months.

Egypt's hotchpotch grouping of Islamists and Salafists, who have won every election since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, outmuscled the more secular-minded opposition, which argue the contentious national charter disregards the rights of Christians, women, workers and farmers among others.

The opposition also voiced reservations over many contentious articles, including those defining the role of the military and the judiciary, and what they perceive as the vague description of the "principles of Sharia," which is laid out as the primary source of legislation.

"The National Salvation Front will hold a news conference noon Sunday to announce its stance and outline its plans for the coming period," read a statement by the NSF, which was founded by prominent political figures Mohamed ElBaradei, Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabbahi.

The NSF and several other opposition forces reported many voting irregularities, with some going as far as to question the legitimacy of the whole process.

"Until now, the Supreme Electoral Commission has not investigated the violations committed in the first round. Will they investigate the irregularities after the announcement of the final result? A rigged referendum and invalid constitution," well-known writer Alaa Al-Aswany, who supported Morsi in the presidential elections but has become one of his staunchest opponents lately, stated on Twitter.

"Historic chance"

The divisive constitution is likely to widen the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters and their opponents, who believe the influential Islamist group and it's Salafist allies are focused on seizing political power after being oppressed for decades by former presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Anwar El-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak.

However, the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), believes the passing of the new constitution might provide a chance to begin working towards an accord with opposition rather than give rise to further disputes.

"We hope that approving the new constitution will be a historic chance to bring all political forces together on the basis of mutual respect," Mourad Ali, the FJP's media adviser, said on his Facebook page.

"We are aiming to continue building our institutions, and together, we can achieve the goals of the glorious January revolution."

Eight were killed in deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi in front of the presidential palace in Cairo earlier this month, electrifying the build-up to the constitution referendum.

Regular clashes also occurred in a handful of governorates, including Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria.

Following a month of bloodshed and political gridlock, it remains to be seen what effect the approval of the new constitution will have on the Arab world's most populous country.

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