01/20/2014, 00.00
EGYPT
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Egyptians approve constitution, but al-Sisi loses youth support

For Mina Thabet, a leader with the Christian-based Maspero Youth Union, many young people boycotted the referendum because it enshrines the hegemony of the military and the anti-protest law that allowed the imprisonment of dozens of pro-democracy activists. The young people who started the Arab Spring have been once again elbowed out.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - "The Young people who led the 25 January Revolution against Mubarak are disillusioned with the policies of the military and the interim government who adopted the anti-demonstration law that sent dozens of activists and pro-democracy leaders to jail. This is why many have boycotted the referendum on the constitution," 28-year-old Maspero Youth Union leader Mina Thabet told AsiaNews.

Established in October 2011 to denounce the massacre of Coptic Christians at Maspero, the Christian movement has thousands of supporters throughout Egypt. Together with the Tamarud movement, it organised the 30 June mass rally that contributed to the downfall of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

"People chose to vote for stability and security," Thabet said. "Indeed, thousands of women, Christians and elderly, those hardest hit by the chaos, queued in front of polling stations."

For the activist, the landslide victory for the 'yes' - about 98 per cent - is genuine, but unfortunately reflects a setback for the country's democratic future.

"State media played a decisive role in the vote's success," he explained. "They praised the referendum and the constitution, claiming that it would bring stability and development to the country, but this is not very likely."

For Thabet, the young people who started the Arab Spring were elbowed out once again. "Media and political leaders linked to the current government have undertaken a campaign of defamation against the movements and people behind the 25 January protests. Describing them as dangerous criminals, they limited their freedom of expression, including the their right to criticise the Constitution."

The notorious anti-protest law is one example of this, the Maspero Youth Union leader said. As a result of the new legislation, Ahmed Maher as well as Ahmed and Mohamed Adel Douma were arrested; they are among the leaders of the 6 April movement, one of main groups of the Arab Spring in Egypt.

Still, for Mina Thabet, only time will tell whether the vote will have positive or negative outcomes.

Even Egypt's strong man and current Foreign Minister and probable future president, General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, is aware of young people's distrust in the new government and the military. In an appeal a few days before the referendum, he encouraged young Egyptians to vote. "You represent the majority of Egyptians," he told them.

According to journalist Khaled Diab, Egypt has changed in the past three years. People will react should the militaristic past make a comeback.

"Egyptians," he writes, "have already overcome and overthrown the most oppressive dictatorship of all: the despot inside their minds, the tyranny of fear." In fact, "a growing number of people are beginning to see through the current regime's hollow democratic rhetoric". (S.C.)

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