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Questionable vote

Jan 25,2014 - Last updated at Jan 25,2014

Egypt has just ended its referendum on its new constitution, with over 84 per cent of the fewer than 50 per cent of citizens who voted in favour.

The issue is not really the outcome of the vote, but rather the very idea of conducting a referendum on a constitution.

Constitutions are very complex legal documents that ordinary people cannot and must not be expected to be able to pass judgement on or attempt to interpret their provisions.

It takes lawyers, jurists and judges of the highest level of competence to understand their articles and construe their legal import.

How, then, were the Egyptians, or any people for that matter, expected to vote on a complex legal instrument that, even in the case of legal scholars, requires competent people that can accomplish such Herculean task?

There are indeed precedents across the globe where a specific provision or principle is submitted for a referendum to gauge the public reaction and obtain its vote.

But even then, such measure would be preceded by seminars, lectures and mass educational processes to explain the content of such provision and the impact of a potential change.

But to put the entire constitution to the vote by laypeople seems like asking too much.

To test a certain piece of legislation, much less the organic law of the land, it must first be submitted for deliberations by parliamentarians, who are duly elected to represent the people.

Parliamentarians are more versed in legal terminology and understand better the complex principles contained in any given constitution.

Egypt should have first held parliamentary elections and then had its draft constitution discussed by the newly elected parliament with a view to voting on it in due course.

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