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December 22, 2012 2:54 pm
Mohamed Satea is no fan of the Muslim Brotherhood or its former leader, Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. But despite the 34-year-old architect’s misgivings, he voted Yes on Saturday, the second and last day of voting in the controversial referendum on a new national charter.
“The most important point is stability,” he said, after voting at a sports club in the Mohandessin district of western Cairo. “If we vote No and the constitution fails there’s no guarantee that we can agree on another 100 people to write up another one any time soon.”
Millions of Egyptian voters in 17 provinces headed to the polls on Saturday to vote on a constitution submitted to the public without the assent of liberals, leftists, secularists or Coptic Christians. Debate over the draft charter has polarised the country.
Late on Saturday, Mr Morsi’s well-regarded vice-president Mahmoud Mekki, a reformist judge who is one of the few non-Islamists in top positions, resigned. In a letter published by local media he said “political work did not suit his professional background as a judge.”
The new constitution does away with the vice-presidency, putting a prime minister first in line of succession, and he had announced a month ago that he would quit government. The judiciary has generally been strongly opposed to the constitution and Mr Morsi’s machinations.
The pro- and anti-constitution camps fought it out on Friday in the city of Alexandria where stone-throwing youths battled on the streets for hours as police tried to keep them apart.
Unofficial results from last weekend’s voting showed the draft charter on track to approval with 57 per cent Yes votes with turnout of less than a third of eligible voters.
Saturday’s result, from largely rural provinces, is likely to buttress that lead. Voting has been extended to 11pm from 8pm because of high turnout.
Mr Satea was among a key constituency of Egyptian voters who supported the constitution because they conclude it is good enough. Though they acknowledge its flaws, these voters prioritise getting the country past a transition period following former president Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow that has stretched nearly two years.
“The points in the constitution that people are arguing over are not important,” said Mr Satea. “I think any problems we can fix later.”
There was a moment I was going to vote No. Then I read the constitution
- Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed
Many voters in Cairo on Saturday said the weeks of debate over the constitution confused rather than clarified the issues for them. Private television channels have been flooded with often misleading commentary about the draft charter.
“One channel says one thing and urges us to vote one way and the other says vote the other way,” said Nadia Mohamed, 63, after casting her No vote at a west Cairo polling station.
“There was a moment I was going to vote No,” said Mohamed Ahmed Mohamed, a 19-year old student who voted in favour of the draft. “Then I read the constitution. There are things in it I like. It gives the ministers real power. They’re not just secretaries to the president.”
Mr Satea said he was almost swayed to vote against the draft, as well. Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, his first choice for president in last summer’s elections, urged his supporters to vote No.
But the scattered, incoherent state of the opposition ultimately convinced him to vote in favour of the draft. “I found the opposition unorganised and not having any one goal,” he said.
But if the goal of the Yes voters is stability and a clear path forward, many opponents of the constitution insisted they would be sorry. “You want stability? There’s no stability without democracy,” one No voter said to a group of Yes voters outside a polling station.
“It’s not true democracy if they forge a vote,” said Iyad Yahya, a 24-year-old employee of a call-centre. He said he was a veteran of the street uprisings that led to Mr Mubarak’s ouster and had taken part in protests in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square. “It’s not about whether Yes wins but about how Tahrir will respond.”
The governor of Egypt’s central bank followed through on a long stated plan on Saturday to resign by the end of 2012, state television reported. After nine years at the helm, Farouq El-Oqda will apparently be replaced by Hisham Ramez, a former deputy at the bank and an executive at Commercial International Bank, a private Egyptian bank.
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