Cairo (AsiaNews) – Egyptians by a margin of 77 per cent voted in favour of changes to the constitution of 1951. However, Sharia will remain the principal source of Egyptian law. The result is a major disappointment for many of the young people who took part in the Jasmine Revolution who had hope to give the country a fresh new look based on equal rights for all its citizens irrespective of religious creed.
Sources told AsiaNews that the referendum was marred by fraud and manipulation by Muslim extremists. “This vote was oriented along confession lines. The Muslim Brotherhood said that those who voted ‘Yes’ were for Islam and against Christians who wanted to remove Sharia as the source of law,” a source said.
Eyewitnesses also said that they saw vote rigging and vote buying. In the poorest neighbourhoods, extremists handed out bags of flower, meat and oil to ‘Yes’ voters.
EUHRO, an election monitoring NGO, also reported cases of discrimination against members of the Coptic community. In many polling stations, Christian and Muslim voters were required to cast their ballots in separate boxes. In some predominantly Coptic areas, voting was delayed and many voters were unable to vote. In Abu Hennes (Upper Egypt), a mostly Coptic area, there were only three polling stations for 20,000 voters.
With constitutional reforms now approved, early parliamentary and presidential elections can take place in September.
“The young people who took part in the uprising are not organised or able to face an election campaign,” the source said. “They do not have a recognisable leader or a programme. The Muslim Brotherhood and Mubarak’s National Democratic Party are the only organised parties and could benefit to win.”
However, predicting the future is impossible according to the source. How people will react must yet to be seen. “The high turnout at the referendum and the more than 20 per cent who want radical changes to the constitution represent a small step for the country towards democracy.” (S.C.)