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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Egyptians cast their votes during the first day of National Referendum on the Constitution’s draft

Egyptian ladies after voting in Referendum
(Image: Ahram Online)
Egypt’s National Referendum on the amended Constitution set for 14 and 15 January has started on Tuesday in Egyptian cities, as Egyptian citizens abroad have already cast their voiced during the previous days.

Referendum was held amid tight security measures, as the fear over the possible clashes and violence was really strong with the supporters of Muslim Brotherhood declaring they will boycott the polls and calling for the massive anti-referendum protests. According to the information of Egypt’s Ministry of Interior and Armed Forces nearly 20 000 police officers, 150 central security forces, 200 combat groups and additional military troops have been deployed to the polling stations across the country to secure voting process during two days.

The first day of national referendum has started with the explosion hit the building of the court located in Giza’s district of Imbaba (Cairo). No casualties were reported. The explosion occurred one hour before the opening of the polling stations, thus the work of the neighboring polling stations was delayed for nearly 2 hours, but the turnout was high with long queues of people waiting to cast their votes.

Egyptians waiting in lines to cast their votes
(Image: Ahram Online)
Over 52, 742, 139 Egyptians were registered to participate in the voting process.

Egypt’s High Electoral Commission and observers reported that the turnout during the first day was high, though the Muslim Brotherhood representatives and their supporters claimed the turnout was really low as many people listened to the Islamists’ call and decided to boycott.

The atmosphere during the referendum’s day was cheerful and positive with the majority of people having joyful mood and claiming they are willing to support the Constitution’s draft in order to move the country towards democratic values and better future with high living standards and freedoms and to finally achieve the goals of the revolutions.

The current draft of the Constitution was written by the special 50-member Constitutional Committee and is strongly endorsed by Egypt’s Armed Forces, interim government and many political forces and experts as this charter guarantees Egyptians more rights and freedoms. 

A man with the ballots after the first day of Referendum
(Image: UK Reuters)
Thus, among the main positive points of the amended Constitution are the following: presidential-parliamentarian rule; Islam is the state’s religion, but freedom of belief for the representatives of three Abrahamic religions is guaranteed supporting the minorities; equal rights for men and women; ban of the political parties based on religion etc. Though critics of the Constitution’s draft claim this national charter obviously favors military at the expense of the people as it allows military courts for civilians, keeps military budget beyond civil observation, for example.

But despite all of it, the moods are positive, and most of the people say they are going to support the Constitution. Analysts claim they expect it will be massive “Yes” vote.

Egypt’s Armed Forces’ Head and Defense Minister Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, who became extremely popular among Egyptians recently and even stated that he probably would run for the president, has called on Egyptians to go to the polling stations and to support the Constitution’s draft.

Explosion in fron of the court building in Giza
(Image: New York Times)
Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour has addressed Egyptians in a televised speech after he’s voted at the polling station and urged Egyptians to vote in favor of the newly amended Constitution and to “prove the terrorists that Egyptians fear nothing”, referring to the recent terrorist attacks committed in Sinai and in some Egyptian cities including Cairo and Mansoura and today’s Giza’s explosion.

The country’s Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawy has also urged Egyptians to vote for the Constitution and stated that this Referendum is a “critical moment” for Egypt and its history.

Egyptians in front of the polling stations
(Image: Ahrma Online)
It’s worth mentioning though that the “No-campaign” for the Constitution has literary face a crackdown of the interim government and security forces as many activists campaigning against the Constitution have been arrested. There are also almost no posters against the Constitution to be seen. This moment of attempts to silence the critics is very worrying in Egypt, as some experts fear the return of authoritarian rule and coming back to the stage where Egypt was in 2011, on the eve of the Revolution.

Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters though, including National Alliance for Support of Legitimacy, have boycotted the polls and staged protests against the Constitution and referendum all over the country. Clashes erupted during these protests as pro-Morsi protesters and supporters of Muslim Brotherhood have clashed with the civilians and security forces in several Egyptian cities including Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Beni Suef, Sohag, Giza and others. At least 10 people left dead after the clashes, dozens are injured. In addition to that, Ministry of Health reported about three deaths from the natural cases during the first day of voting.