You are here

Eyes on Sisi as Egypt approves constitution with 98%

By AFP - Jan 18,2014 - Last updated at Jan 18,2014

CAIRO — Egypt’s new constitution was approved by 98.1 per cent, with turnout higher than in a 2012 vote under now ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, a senior government official said Saturday.

The turnout and landslide “yes” vote proved that Morsi’s overthrow was a “popular revolution”, another official told a press conference formally announcing the results.

The new charter replaces an Islamist-inspired one adopted in a December 2012 referendum under Morsi with about two-thirds of the vote and a 33 per cent turnout.

Authorities say it protects women’s rights and freedom of speech.

Electoral committee head Nabil Salib said the turnout in the referendum on Tuesday and Wednesday, which was boycotted by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies, “reached 38.6 per cent”.

Of them, 98.1 per cent of voters approved the new constitution.

Army chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, the general who ousted Morsi in July after massive protests, was monitoring the outcome for an indication of support for a possible presidential bid, military officials said.

He is expected to make up his mind now that the results have been announced, with his backers already calling for a rally on January 25 to emphasise their support.

Presidential and parliamentary elections have been promised for later this year.

Sisi is wildly popular among the millions who took to the streets against Morsi, but the Islamist’s followers revile him for what they say was a “coup” against Egypt’s first freely elected and civilian president.

The Brotherhood, harried by a deadly crackdown since Morsi’s removal, dismissed the referendum as “farce” and called for further protests.

It has also called rallies for January 25, the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising that overthrew veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim also called for demonstrations on the same day to counter an Islamist “plot to spark chaos”, an unusual appeal from the top police official tasked with enforcing a law that restricts protests.

More than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed and thousands imprisoned in a police crackdown on pro-Morsi protests.

On Friday, three men were killed in Cairo and another in clashes in Fayoum, southwest of the capital, the health ministry said, as police clamped down on the Islamist rallies.

The government hoped a large turnout in the referendum would bolster its democratic credentials and further marginalise the Islamists.

‘Sisi for presidency’

Many who took part in the referendum said their vote was also an endorsement of Sisi, seen as a strong man capable of restoring security after the three years of turmoil following Mubarak’s overthrow.

Morsi’s supporters wish to have Sisi tried internationally for crimes against humanity for the deadly crackdown, but the general is adored by his supporters and will face no serious competition if he stands for election.

“If general Sisi nominates himself for president his chances will be great,” Ahmed Al Muslimani, a presidential aide told the London-based Al-Sharq Al Awsat newspaper in an interview.

Muslimani said he spoke with the general a few days before and he had not yet made up his mind, but other officials say his candidacy appears to be a foregone conclusion.

State-run Al Akhbar newspaper, meanwhile, trumpeted its support for Sisi, declaring in a Saturday front-page banner that: “All roads lead Sisi to the presidency of the republic.”

In the first test of democracy after Morsi’s overthrow, the run-up to the referendum was marred by arrests of activists who campaigned against the constitution.

“There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government’s roadmap or the proposed constitution to dissent,” said monitoring group Democracy International, which observed the referendum.

The group said its monitors witnessed security forces and campaigning material inside polling stations, but there was “no evidence that such problems substantially affected the outcome of this referendum”.

The US administration is closely watching the results of Egypt’s referendum, but has not yet decided whether to unfreeze some $1.5 billion (1.1 billion euros) in aid, the State Department said Thursday.

The vote has put the Brotherhood, which the government designated last month as a terrorist group, on the back foot.

Morsi himself has been in custody since his ouster and is currently standing trial in the first of three separate cases against him.

177 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.