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Sunday, December 16, 2012

First stage of Egypt’s historical Constitutional referendum

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsy received draft of the
Constitution from the head of the Assembly

After a few weeks of massive protests happening in Egypt the first stage of the historical referendum on the proposed draft of the Constitution took place on Saturday, 15 December 2012.

The first stage of the controversial referendum has been held in Egypt amid ongoing demonstrations of the oppositional forces headed by the recently established National Salvation front protesting the draft of the Constitution and demanding the cancellation of the recent presidential decrees and the referendum and the massive rallies held by Morsy and Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters urging to vote for the Constitution.

The oppositional forces have been demanding to cancel the referendum or to at least postpone it as they totally reject the draft of the Constitution considering it being illegitimate and created by the unrepresentative Islamist-led Constituent Assembly. The members of the national Salvation Front have been calling to boycott the referendum, but on the eve of it they declared they will participate, but they will vote against the Constitutional draft. Egypt’s Islamist political forces at the same time have been urging the people to vote in favor of the new Constitution.

Egyptians standing in lines to cast their ballots
The referendum will be held in two stages in Egypt, and it will happen for the first time since 1950’s. This decision was made due to lack of judiciary supervision of the voting process as nearly 90% of Egypt’s judges declared they will boycott the referendum and will not supervise it.
The first stage held on 15 December includes ten Egyptian governorates: Cairo, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Assiut, Aswan, North Sinai, South Sinai, Sohag. The second stage to be held on 22 December will include the remaining 17 governorates (Suez, Ismailia, Port Said etc.). The results are expected to be declared in a few days after the voting.

The first stage of the referendum started today early in the morning, with the long queues outside the polling stations. But comparing to the previous elections today the people were less positive and a lot of them have expressed their frustration and disappointment claiming they fear this referendum won’t change a lot and there will be another struggle ahead. Meanwhile the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood and those who decided to vote for the draft of the Constitution are positive and say the Constitution is really good and could bring positive changes and stability to country. Thus, the country remains divided during the day of the Constitutional referendum.

People outside the polling station in Cairo
Tens of thousands of Egypt’s military and Central Security Forces have been deployed for securing the polling stations. There were several reports about some clashes outside the polling stations and some people have been reportedly arrested.

Egypt’s Ministry of Health has announced there are at least four injured during the day of referendum.

The day of voting wasn’t calm, as in the afternoon the headquarters of Egypt’s liberal Wafd Party was attacked by some unknown assailants. The members of the party claim there were supporters of Egypt’s prominent Salafist politician and Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, but he officially denies those claims.

Journalists and oppositional activists have been also reporting about several violations happening during the day of voting. Some polling stations were reportedly closed earlier then it was scheduled. The most common violations were the following: absence or lack of judges supervising the electoral process at the polling stations, refusal of some judges to show their identification cards, mistakes and absence of the names of some voters in the lists, unstamped ballots which are invalid and campaigning outside the polling station in the day of voting. The oppositional forces claim a lot of Islamist supporters and activists have been urging the people to vote for the Constitution just tens meters away from the polling stations. There were also the reports about some campaigns took place during the day of referendum and organized by the both rival camps.

Egyptian women waiting in the line to participate in the referendum
Egypt’s Central Electoral Committee has declared the high voter turnout during the first stage of the referendum, so the voting time was extended till 11 p.m. local time. In addition to that the voting for Egyptian expats has been also extended till Monday, 8 p.m.

After polling stations have been closed nationwide in Egypt, the counting of the votes has been started, but the HEC declared they will announce the final results after the second stage of the referendum. They declared they will also examine all the complains and reports regarding the violations of the electoral process.

Egyptians outside the polling station
The pressers of both the National Salvation Front and the Muslim Brotherhood have been held with the members of it analyzing the preliminary results. Oppositional forces claim they have the majority of votes against the Constitution, while Islamists say most of the citizens supported the Constitutional draft.

Meanwhile no official results and numbers are available till now, and the counting of the votes is currently continuing.

The next stage of the Constitutional referendum is scheduled for 22 December.