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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Egypt: the second day of the Constitutional Referendum

Egyptians standing in lines to cast their votes in Referendum
(Image: Deutsche Welle)
Egyptians have gathered at the polling stations nationwide for the second day of the National Referendum in order to cast their votes. Referendum has been already held for Egyptians living abroad, though the voters’ turnout was low, according to the information of Egypt’s High Electoral Committee. In Egypt though the voters’ turnout during the first day of Referendum, 14 January, was very high. The second day, 15 January, witnessed lower voters’ turnout, but there were a lot of women and elderly citizens willing to participate in the voting process.

The general number of eligible voters for the Constitutional Referendum in Egypt is 52,742,139, reported High Electoral Committee.

The second day of the Referendum has also witnessed several protests staged by the Muslim Brotherhood’s and ousted President’s Mohamed Morsi’s supporters and sporadic clashes, though no deaths have been reported. Despite this the mood of the voters remained positive and cheerful for the second day of the Referendum, as many people have high expectations and hopes connected to the newly amended Constitution.

The second day of Referendum witnessed highr numbers of
(Image: Ahram Online)
The 2014 Constitution was praised by many political groups and activists and experts as well for wider freedoms and more rights, as equal rights are guaranteed to the women, religious minorities are more protected etc. There are though many critics of the current Constitution’s draft. Critics claim this national charter favors military on the expense of the people and allows, for example, military trials for civilians. Fight against military trials for civilians was one of the key demands of January 25 Revolution.

But 2014 Constitution is very likely to receive massive support as the majority of Egyptians are expected to support the new Constitution. This Constitution is also supported by the majority of the political groups in Egypt.

Muslim Brotherhood and Alliance for Support of Legitimacy, supporting Mohamed Morsi, have declared earlier that they refuse to recognize the Constitutional draft and called to boycott the Referendum. After Mohamed Morsi’s ouster his supporters and Muslim Brotherhood hold protests and rallies against the military and military backed interim government denying all the decisions taken by it and considering this rule being illegitimate. The numbers of the supporters participating in the rallies though gets lower and lower, as Egypt’s interim government has designated Muslim Brotherhood recently as terrorist organization and banned the groups’ activities.

Thus protests have been staged by Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters all over Egypt, but the numbers of the demonstrators were relatively low and didn’t exceed several hundreds. Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been protesting against the interim government and the amended Constitution and have been chanting against the referendum and military as well. Protesters have been also trying to block the roads in several districts and trying to disrupt work of Cairo metro.
Egyptians waiting to cast their votes
(Image: Ahram Onlne)

Some of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters have attempted to storm one of the polling stations in Giza firing gunshots, though they were arrested by the police later. In Alexandria pro-Morsi protesters slashed with the local residents and security forces, but they were dispersed by the police.

Egypt’s Armed Forces and Ministry of Interior have deployed additional troops of military and police personnel in order to secure the voting process during the two days of Referendum. Thus, despite heavy military and security forces presence at the polling stations nationwide pro-Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters continued their protests. These rallies though didn’t prevent people from voting and didn’t disrupt the voting process.

10 people were declared dead and dozens injured as a result of the clashes erupted during the Muslim Brotherhood’s protests on the first day of Referendum. Police reported that nearly 250 Muslim Brotherhood’s members have been arrested.

The second day of Egypt’s Constitutional Referendum was generally smooth and clam with some sporadic clashes and protests. Voting process was delayed at several polling stations, and there were long lines of citizens willing to cast their votes. Observers have reported about some violations during the voting process, but there were allegedly no serious violations.
The polling stations have closed at 9 p.m. and process of counting the votes has started and it is currently ongoing.

Constitutional Referendum is one of the most decisive points of the political roadmap introduced by the Armed Forces and interim government after Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. If the Constitution will be supported by Egyptians and approved, interim President will set the dates for the presidential and parliamentarian elections.