Egypt's two-stage referendum: Thorny issues remain

Egypt's two-stage referendum: Thorny issues remain

Cairo : Egypt | Dec 17, 2012 at 7:20 AM PST
Views: Pending

After the first round of a two-stage referendum in Egypt, speculations are rife that President Mohamed Morsi will emerge a winner after all the turmoil, protests and bloodshed that ripped apart the nation into two distinct camps.

In the first phase of the referendum, Egyptians voted narrowly in favor of a controversial draft engineered by Islamists and stringently criticized by liberals and minorities, especially Coptic Christians who constitute nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

The anti-Morsi faction is apprehensive that the referendum, if successful, will divide the biggest Arab nation and diminish all hopes of experimenting with notions of democracy.

The stage is all set for the second round of referendum and predictions indicate that Egyptians, by and large, would approve the constitution. The areas where the referendum will be held include a large percentage of Islamist sympathizers, meaning the constitution would be approved. According to unofficial estimates, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed constitution garnered 56.5 percent of the vote as half of the country cast ballots over the weekend. The rest of the country votes on Saturday.

The second phase of results from the traditional and conservative part of Egypt would surely be enough for the referendum to pass through. However, the approval exposes Egypt in unusual circumstances due to the fact that the constitution did not find the widest political support. The narrow margin of approval raises questions about the overall acceptance of the constitution.

Moreover, the type of support that Morsi’s constitution garners come from a base that is less educated, narrow minded and easily influenced by clerics. On the other hand, the opponents of the constitution represent a group lead by elites who have a fairly good exposure to egalitarian values and represent the future of a democratic Egypt. Morsi should have placed the constitution for a debate and then gone ahead with the referendum. A narrowly approved constitution is a sign of trouble.

A hurriedly drawn up constitution by an Islamist-dominated assembly and a low turnout in the referendum would make it hard for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to gain a sense of acceptability, both at the local and international sphere.

A close win would provide Morsi a limited reason to celebrate. The results display widening rifts in a nation where Morsi would need to build consensus on every aspect of governance, be it the rights of minorities or women and decisions on economic reforms.

While the closeness of the result would propel the Muslim Brotherhood to the driver’s seat, the opposition is all braced up to reject the legitimacy of the constitution and continue to question the draft’s commitment to basic rights

Airing discontent against the political climate in Egypt, Mohammed ElBaradei, the leader of the opposition coalition, warned that a second revolution was "not far-fetched" if Morsi does not back away from the draft document. He said on Twitter: "Country split, flagrant irregularities, low turnout, disillusion with Islamists on the rise - illiteracy remains a hurdle.”


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Head of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Badie
Head of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Mohammed Badie
aymaan30 is based in New Delhi, Delhi, India, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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