Egypt's draft charter gets 'yes' majority in vote

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 22, 2012 at 9:18 pm •  Published: December 22, 2012
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Both rounds of voting saw claims by the opposition and rights groups of voting violations. On Saturday, they said violations ranged from polling stations opening late to Islamists seeking to influence voters to say "yes." The official MENA news agency said at least two judges have been removed for coercing voters to cast "yes" ballots.

The opposition's talk of now taking the contest to the parliamentary elections represented a shift in the conflict — an implicit gamble that the opposition can try to compete under rules that the Islamists have set. The Brotherhood's electoral machine has been one of its strongest tools since Mubarak's fall, while liberal and secular parties have been divided and failed to create a grassroots network.

In the first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections last winter, the Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafis won more than 70 percent of seats in the lower chamber, which was later dissolved by a court order. The opposition is now betting it can do better with the anger over Morsi's performance so far.

The schism in a country that has for decades seen its institutions function behind a facade of stability was on display in Saturday's lines of voters.

In the village of Ikhsas in the Giza countryside south of Cairo, an elderly man who voted "no" screamed in the polling station that the charter is "a Brotherhood constitution."

"We want a constitution in the interest of Egypt. We want a constitution that serves everyone, not just the Brotherhood. They can't keep fooling the people," Ali Hassan, a 68-year-old wearing traditional robes, said.

But others were drawn by the hope that a constitution would finally bring some stability after nearly two years of tumultuous transitional politics. There appeared to be a broad economic split, with many of the middle and upper classes rejecting the charter and the poor voting "yes" — though the division was not always clear-cut.

In Ikhsas, Hassan Kamel, a 49-year-old day worker, said "We the poor will pay the price" of a no vote.

He dismissed the opposition leadership as elite and out of touch. "Show me an office for any of those parties that say no here in Ikhsas or south of Cairo. They are not connecting with people."

In the industrial working class district of Shubra El-Kheima just north of Cairo, women argued while waiting in line over the draft charter.

Samira Saad, a 55 year old housewife, said she wanted her five boys to find jobs.

"We want to get on with things and we want things to be better," she said.

Nahed Nessim, a Christian, questioned the integrity of the process. "There is a lot of corruption. My vote won't count." She was taken to task by Muslim women wearing the niqab, which blankets the entire body and leaves only the eyes visible and is worn by ultraconservative women.

"We have a president who fears God and memorizes His words. Why are we not giving him a chance until he stands on his feet?" said one of the women, Faiza Mehana, 48.

The promise of stability even drew one Christian woman in Fayoum, southwest of Cairo, to vote "yes" — a break with most Christians nationwide who oppose the draft. Hanaa Zaki said she wanted an end to Egypt's deepening economic woes.

"I have a son who didn't get paid for the past six months. We have been in this crisis for so long and we are fed up," said Zaki, waiting in line along with bearded Muslim men and Muslim women wearing headscarves in Fayoum, a province that is home to both a large Christian community and a strong Islamist movement.

The scene In Giza's upscale Mohandiseen neighborhood was starkly different.

A group of 12 women speaking to each other in a mix of French, Arabic and English said they were all voting "no."

"It's not about Christian versus Muslim, it is Muslim Brotherhood versus everyone else," said one of them, Shahira Sadeq, a Christian physician.

Kamla el-Tantawi, 65, said she was voting "against what I'm seeing" — and she gestured at a woman nearby wearing the niqab.

"I lose sleep thinking about my grandchildren and their future. They never saw the beautiful Egypt we did," she said, harkening back to a time decades ago when few women even wore headscarves covering their hair, much less the black niqab.

Many voters were under no illusions the turmoil would end.

"I don't trust the Brotherhood anymore and I don't trust the opposition either. We are forgotten, the most miserable and the first to suffer," said Azouz Ayesh, sitting with his neighbors as their cattle grazed in a nearby field in the Fayoum countryside.

He said a "yes" would bring stability and a "no" would mean no stability. But, he added, "I will vote against this constitution."

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Associated Press writers Maggie Michael in Fayoum, Egypt, and Aya Batrawy, in Cairo, contributed to this report.

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