Egypt opposition questions 'yes' vote, vows to fight on

Charter adopted by 63.5 per cent of voters, say unofficial results

Image Credit: REUTERS
Officials count ballots after polls closed during the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Bani Sweif, about 115 km (71 miles) south of Cairo December 22, 2012. Early indications suggested Egyptians approved an Islamist-drafted constitution in Saturday's second-round referendum despite opposition criticism of the measure as divisive.
Gulf News

Cairo: Egypt’s opposition Sunday questioned the adoption of a draft constitution, which unofficial results said had been approved by more than 60 per cent of the ballots cast in a two-stage referendum.

“We will continue our peaceful struggle to drop this constitution,” Hamdeen Sabahi, a leader in the main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, said.

He told reporters that the alliance would challenge the result of the vote, which the opposition and independent monitors claimed to have been marred by massive violations.

“We will challenge the result of the referendum and lodge an appeal with with the Supreme Election Commission, which should listen to all accusations about vote rigging.”

Unofficial tallies said the charter was approved by 63.5 per cent of the votes cast in both stages of the balloting.

Sabahi, a former presidential contender, said that the alliance, which groups secular, liberal and leftist political parties, will compete in a legislative election expected to be held early next year.

“The Front is ready to fight all democratic battles and running in the parliamentary polls, which will be a major test to us,” he said. “We will not allow fraud to happen in the coming parliamentary election,” he said, without elaborating.

Observers said that the opposition has been buoyed up by a low turnout in the vote on the disputed constitution, despite the approval of the document drafted by an Islamist-controlled panel.

Nearly 31 per cent of Egypt’s 51.3 million registered voters cast their ballots in the plebiscite held on 15th and 22nd December.

The opposition condemned the proposed constitution as too Islamist and hostile to fundamental freedoms.

The Islamists, including President Muhammad Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, touted the draft constitution as key to Egypt’s stability and democratic transition.

Tensions, including violent clashes between opponents and supporters, foreshadowed the referendum.

Welcoming the result of the vote, Brotherhood officials Sunday reached out to the opposition. “For the first time in their history, Egyptians freely voted for their constitution,” said Saad al-Katatni, the head of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.

“We in the Freedom and Justice Party extend our hands to all political parties and national powers to chart together the new stage. I hope we’ll turn over a new page,” he wrote on his Facebook account.

Around 71.4 per cent of those who voted in the second and final round approved the charter, compared to 56.5 per cent in the first, according to unofficial tallies carried by state media.

The highest approval rates were in the southern provinces, surging to 89.4 per cent in Fayoum followed by Beni Sueif with 84.8 per cent.

The lowest approval rate was registered in the Nile Delta province of Menufia, the hometown of former presidents Anwar al-Sadat and Hosni Mubarak. Some 51.2 per cent of voters in the province, known for its opposition to Mursi, reportedly rejected the charter.

The official result is expected to be announced Monday.

Several opposition groups spurned a presidential offer to be included in appointments in the Islamist-dominated Shura Council or the upper house of parliament, which will get the legislative authority until the new legislature.

Mursi Saturday appointed one third of the council’s 270 members. The appointees include 12 Christians in an apparent bid to allay the Christian minority’s fears about being marginalized with Islamists being at the helm. The two thirds were elected in a public vote earlier this year.




31% of 51.3 million registered voters cast their ballots


71.4% of those who voted in the final round approved the charter


How Egyptians voted