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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Two rival marches for and against Constitution took place in Egypt ahead of Saturday’s Constitutional Referendum

Protests in Egypt against the Constitution and referendum

Ahead of Egypt’s historical national referendum on the draft of the Constitution the country remains divided between those who are strongly opposing the Constitution and those who support it and urges to vote “Yes”.

Two rival demonstrations have been planned for Friday, 14 December 2012, in Egypt’s capital Cairo and also in many other Egyptian cities.

The oppositional forces headed by the recently established National Salvation Front (which leaders are Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahy and Amr Moussa) have gathered on Friday to express their rejection of the current Constitutional draft. Their main demands were and remain the cancellation of the controversial presidential decree and of the national referendum on the Constitution. It’s worth mentioning, that Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsy has issued the new decree which cancelled the 22 November Constitutional Declaration, but this decree left Egypt’s opposition disappointed as it was almost unchanged. Also the Prosecutor General was dismissed by the President.

As for the national referendum the oppositional forces have been calling for boycotting the referendum as they consider it being undemocratic and unconstitutional and reject its legitimacy. The Constituent Assembly responsible for drafting Egypt’s new Constitution was strongly dominated by Islamist political forces and has faced the numerous withdrawals of a lot of liberals, secularists, leftists, Coptic Christians, women and intellectuals. The draft of the Constitution was appointed by the unrepresentative Assembly which doesn’t represent the whole Egyptian society, thus the draft of the Constitution doesn’t represent all the factions of Egyptian society too and could threat rights and freedoms of Egyptian citizens, as the current Constitution was created to benefit Islamist forces. Opposition keeps accusing the Muslim Brotherhood and the President of hijacking the Revolution and totally rejects the Constitution.

After weeks of protests the oppositional forces decided to participate on the referendum but they express their rejection of this Constitutional draft and call to vote against it.

Four massive marches have been held today in Cairo to protest the recent Morsy’s decisions and to demand the cancellation of the referendum. The protesters headed to the Presidential Palace where the anti-Morsy demonstrators continue their sit-in. Those protests are aimed to pressure Egypt’s President to call off the national referendum.

Supporters of Morsy and the Constitution
Meanwhile Islamists’ marches have been held too in Cairo’s Nasr City district and also in several Egyptian cities. The supporters of Morsy and Muslim Brotherhood have been calling for voting “Yes” on the Constitutional Referendum and supported the draft of the Constitution and all the decisions made by the state’s President. Thousands of Morsy supporters gathered to voice their demands. There were also some clashes reported (one of the most serious reportedly took place in Alexandria where the protesters have been arrested for carrying the weapons).

Despite the ongoing protests the referendum for the Constitution remains being scheduled for Saturday, 15 December.

For the first time since 1950’s the referendum in Egypt will be held in two stages due to lack of judicial supervision of the process. Most of the country’s judges refused to oversee the process of referendum, and the country faces the problem that only nearly 40% of the polling stations will be supervised by the judges. To ensure the judicial control of the process the referendum will be held in two stages. The first stage will begin on Saturday, 15 December, and will include Cairo, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Assiut, Sohag, Aswan, North Sinai, South Sinai, Sharqiya, Daqahliya. The second stage is scheduled for 22 December and will be held in Suez, Ismailiya, Port Said and other remaining governorates.

The ongoing protests in Egypt
In addition to that Egypt’s Armed Forces declared they will safeguard the referendum as it was during the parliamentary and presidential elections. According to the statement of Egypt’s military nearly 380 000 army and police forces will be deployed to secure the referendum. Military and CSF will be located near the polling stations.

Egypt’s Ministry of Interior has also made an official statement that they will secure the referendum and won’t allow any violations and disruption of voting process.

Thus, on the eve of the historical Constitutional Referendum the country remains divided, and the protests continue from the both sides.