Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Egyptian referendum supported by over 98 percent of voters

A new constitution designed to expand democratic powers and liberties in Egypt has been open for voting, a mark of success for the country since former president Mohammed Morsi was removed from power in 2013. Written by a 50-member committee, according to USA Today, it has been approved with minimal – less than 2 percent – opposition from registered voters.

An effort that did not come without struggle and violence, including riots that led to loss of lives, the constitution promises for elections to take place to elect a president and parliament. Other major aspects of the constitution include the continuance of Islam as the state religion but with emphasis placed on freedom of belief, equality between men and women, and the banning of parties based on “religion, race, gender, or geography.”

Like the American one, the Egyptian constitution limits each elected president to serve only “two four-year terms and can be impeached.”

The strong number of votes in favor has been criticized due to only “38.6 percent of the 53 million” eligible voters showing up at the polls, BBC said. This turn out is less than four percent larger than the number of voters that showed up in 2012 for the referendum being held by Morsi. The approval rate was 64 percent then, and only two of the representatives that drafted that document under Morsi’s administration participated in the latest one.

Egyptian Defense Minister and champion of the new constitution,
General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Washington Post described the polling stations near the country’s capital as “nearly deserted,” and that guards (over 360,000 of them nationwide) were keeping voters away from the media as they gathered around the entrance.

The smaller-than-expected turn out has also been blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, a political group that was once Egypt’s “most powerful political force and is now outlawed as a terrorist group,” according to USA Today. Members of the group spread word for the people of Egypt to not participate in the elections, claiming that the voting was rigged and would not pay attention to the Egyptians that did not support the reform. However, the group Democracy International provided over “80 international election observes across Egypt for the vote.” Worries of violence may also have been a factor that kept people in their homes rather than at the polling stations.

As the country moves towards a more democratic state, it has already encountered issues with giving voice to all political forces before the constitution has been officially implemented. Because of the large margin of approval, some fear that those citizens who disapprove may not have their grievances addressed at all.

“There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government’s roadmap or the proposed constitution to dissent,” Democracy International told USA Today.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is pushing to have Egyptians able to exercise the rights granted in the new document fully, rights that are expected to be implemented in the coming days.

“Egypt’s turbulent experiment… has reminded us all that it’s not one vote that determines a democracy, it’s all the steps that follow,” Kerry said, according to BBC. “Now is the time to make that commitment a reality.”


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Dani Marrero, International Editor

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Egyptian referendum supported by over 98 percent of voters