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News Analysis: Egypt faces chaos, division over constitutional referendum


08:11, December 14, 2012

CAIRO, Dec. 13 (Xinhua) -- Egypt is facing chaos and division ahead of a controversial constitutional referendum scheduled to kick off on Saturday.

With ordinary people divided over whether to support President Mohamed Morsi and the draft constitution, Islamists divided over the necessity of pro-Morsi protests, judges divided over whether to supervise the referendum, and even opposition divided over how to respond to a national dialogue initiated by the army, "Division " has become a keyword in today's Egypt.


Morsi's supporters, mostly Islamists, urged citizens to vote in the referendum, arguing that a new constitution will establish the country's institutions and lead to stability and prosperity.

"Voting in the referendum is a national duty and an important stage of democratic transition," Ahmed Sobea, media adviser of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), told Xinhua. "It is positive to vote, no matter with 'Yes' or 'No.' Boycotting is a negative attitude."

Sobea cautioned that those who put obstacles in the way of referendum would be attempting to turn the national, political race into a personal and partisan one.

Morsi's opponents, mostly liberals, leftists and Copts, are represented mainly in the opposition bloc dubbed "National Salvation Front," led by former diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei and former presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Hamdeen Sabahy, among other leading figures.

The Front has recently rejected Morsi's invitation to dialogue and urged citizens to boycott the referendum, citing the worries that the constitution serves merely one faction, namely the Islamists.

"The National Salvation Front decided to take part in Saturday' s referendum, urging citizens to say 'No' to the draft constitution," Amr Moussa, former Arab League chief and member of the Front, told Xinhua.

As for the referendum results, "If the result was 'No,' there would be complete respect on our part because it would be the final word of the people and no one could impose their opinion on the will of the people," FJP media spokesman Sobea said.

"The referendum is not the end of the world. If the result was 'Yes', the National Salvation Front would still continue its struggle to topple this regime," George Ishaaq, a leading political activist and member of the opposition front, told Xinhua.


In the streets, Egyptian people are divided over the draft constitution.

"I will say 'Yes' for the draft constitution to move the country towards stability and build the country's institutions," said Safaa al-Sayed, a 31-year-old veiled female FJP member.

In contrast, Rania, a 24-year-old Coptic, said she would vote against the draft constitution, for she believed "there aren't women's rights in the new constitution, and it does not represent all Egyptians, since the Coptic Church, journalists and many others withdrew from the constitution-writing assembly."

Yet, three main churches announced Thursday that they will vote in the referendum. "Egyptian Churches are patriotic and will take part in the referendum, but will not interfere in politics," Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt's Orthodox Church, was quoted by official MENA news agency as saying.

Churches that withdrew from the Islamist-dominated constitution- writing assembly last month stated in a joint statement that "the intended constitution with its current version does not achieve the desired national consensus, nor does it express Egypt's pluralistic identity."


About 90 percent of judges refused to supervise the constitutional referendum, according to head of Judges Club Ahmed al-Zend.

However, independent judges of Judges for Egypt Movement showed willingness to supervise the referendum as "a national duty." Administrative State Council's Judges Club also announced it would oversee the referendum, provided that Morsi's supporters end their sit-in outside the Supreme Constitutional Court.

The election commission responsible for the referendum said Thursday that each ballot box would be supervised by one judge during the referendum, noting that the referendum would be under the supervision of 7,000 members of different judicial authorities.

President Morsi issued a recent decree stating that the referendum would be held in two rounds, the first slated for Dec. 15 in 10 governorates including Cairo and Alexandria, and the second on Dec. 22 covering the other 17 governorates.

Observers believe Morsi's decree was meant to overcome the shortage of supervising judges.

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