Cairo: Egypt’s ruling Islamists and opposition on Sunday wrangled over the result of the first-round referendum on a controversial draft constitution amid warnings over growing splits in the country. Turnout in the first phase was unofficially estimated at around 32 per cent.
President Mohammad Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood claimed that at least 57 per cent of votes cast in Saturday’s polls favoured the charter. The main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, alleged that 66 per cent of the voters disapproved of the proposed constitution.
“We announced the results depending on our delegates who attended the vote count. How did they [the opposition] get their tallies then?” said Essam Al Erian, a senior Brotherhood official.
The pro-constitution Islamists touted the constitution, drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly, as holding the key to stability in Egypt. The opposition condemned the charter as flawed, saying it curtails fundamental freedoms and ignores women’s rights.
Al Erian expected that the constitution approval rates would be higher in the second round scheduled for December 22.
“The governorates, which took part in the first round, had voted for Ahmad Shafiq in the presidential election,” he said, referring to Mursi’s rival in the presidential run-off in June. “It is natural that the remaining governorates, who had voted for President Mursi, will also vote for the constitution,” he added.
In his first comment on the non-official results of the first-round vote held in 10 governorates, including Cairo and Alexandria, Opposition leader Mohammad Al Baradei warned of a widening chasm and the crumbling of the “state foundations” in Egypt. “Still, the degree of consciousness is quickly growing and revolutionary Egypt is not unattainable,” he added in a tweet. “The level of consciousness is growing rapidly and the Egypt of the revolution is within reach,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the significant percentage of voters who opposed the constitution.
Southern provinces had high percentages in favour of the constitution, including 83 per cent in Aswan and 77 per cent in Sohag.
The Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have campaigned in favour of the draft constitution, arguing that it is necessary to fast-track the transition from Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian rule.
For its part, April 6, a protest group that played a key role in the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak almost two years year ago, said the results of Saturday’s vote “proves that the percentage of those opposed to the constitution is not meagre”.
“They confirm that there is a horrible split in the Egyptian street,” said Mohammad Adel, a member of the group.
The final results of the plebiscite will be officially announced after the second round is held on Saturday in the country’s 17 remaining governorates.
However, a coalition of local human rights groups on Sunday called for the first round of voting to be held again, citing alleged massive violations.
“The balloting was held in an atmosphere of intimidation of citizens,” said Bahi Al Deen Hassan, the head of the Cairo Centre for Human Rights.
He told a press conference that the irregularities included barring civil society monitors from polling stations, a lack of full judicial supervision, and illegal canvassing of voters inside the polls.
The final adoption of the divisive constitution means that legislative authority will be handed over from Mursi to the Islamist-controlled upper house of parliament until a new legislature is elected in three months’ time.