Egyptians queued in long lines Saturday across 10 provinces to vote on a draft constitution that is said to disregard the rights of women and ignore personal freedoms, and is largely supported by the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
Liberal, secular and Christian opponents say Egypt’s draft constitution contains only one reference to women, in Article 10, in which it details the role that the state should have in maintaining the true nature of the Egyptian family.
According to Heba Morayef, the director of Human Rights Watch in Egypt, articles 44 and 31 violate freedom of expression because they prohibit insulting both “the human” and “prophets.” But she also tweeted that progress had been made because the word “torture” was added to Article 36 after having been missing in previous drafts.
The UN human rights chief, the United States, European Union and civil society organizations all have expressed reservations about the draft, citing loopholes that could be used to weaken human rights, especially for the independence of the judiciary, women and religious minorities.
The first round of voting opened at 8 a.m. across 10 provinces, and included the cities of Cairo and Alexandria. The rest of the country will vote on Dec. 22.
MENA news reported that Egypt’s vote will be staggered over two rounds to ensure there will be enough judges to monitor polling stations. According to the opposition, the real reason is due to the lack of sufficient judges who already decided to boycott the referendum.
What this means is that more than 26 million voters were to cast their ballots in the first round of referendum, while another 25 million will vote next week.
Egypt’s army has temporarily been given police powers to maintain security until the results are known. A total of 130,000 police and 120,000 soldiers are being deployed, interior ministry and military officials said.
The National Salvation Front, a recently formed umbrella group comprising liberal, leftist, Coptic Christian, nationalist and independent groups, had initially called on people, to vote against the constitution. It says “the constitution should please all the parts of society, not just one part only.”
One prominent opponent of President Mohamed Morsi,, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nobel Peace Prize winner, wrote on Twitter: “Adoption of (a) divisive draft constitution that violates universal values and freedoms is a confirmed way to institutionalize instability and turmoil.”
If the constitution is approved by a simple majority of voters, the Muslim Brotherhood would control the upper house of parliament and could then seize legislative authority until a new parliament is elected (everything would be under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood).
If the constitution is rejected, elections would be held within three months conferring a new panel to draft a new constitution. In this scenario, legislative powers would fall to Morsi.
I think the president is still determined to be stubborn toward the people, who brought him to power. It is now certain that the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to transform Egypt into a dictatorship, to achieve the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood without paying attention to the political, revolutionary and independent opponents who have the right to participate in the political process deciding the future of Egypt.
Despite Morsi’s attempts to prove that he is the leader of all Egyptians, the Brotherhood’s interference in the dialogue with the opposition confirmed to the Egyptian people that their leadership is not only in the hands of Morsi but that the presidency is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Working as an integrated team, its goal is to achieve the aspirations of the group. Their dream is an Islamic caliphate to rule the world, starting from Egypt.
The conflicts in the recent weeks over the draft constitution revealed the crisis within Egyptian society, especially the deep division regarding the future identity of the country. This severe dispute, which was expressed in the form of demonstrations and violence between supporters of Morsi and his opponents, shows that the Muslim Brotherhood is determined to mix religion with policy. Unfortunately, this indicates that a dark future awaits the Egyptian people.
I expect that if the referendum succeeds, some Egyptians will leave the country, especially businessmen and Christians. This scenario happened in Egypt in the 1960s. The reason then was political conflicts with the regime, the same as today.
I am not against the Muslim Brotherhood as an organization, but I am against them ruling Egypt because they lack access to the most basic principle of governance—democracy. From here, Morsi should remember that he was elected by part of the Egyptian people and not all of them. Therefore he must be aware of the consequences of any step he might take, as the opposition knows very well that sit-ins are able to topple the president!