Egypt awaits results on key post-Morsi vote

Agence France-Presse

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Initial tallies reported by state media suggested more than 90 percent of voters approved the new constitution in a two-day referendum

REFERENDUM. Polling station officials count ballots in the Egyptian capital Cairo on January 15, 2014 at the end of the second day of voting in a referendum on a new constitution. Photo by Khaled Desouki/AFP

CAIRO, Egypt – Egypt stepped closer to adopting a new constitution on Thursday, January 16, following a referendum that the government hailed as showing strong approval of the army’s ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Initial tallies reported by state media suggested more than 90 percent of voters approved the new constitution in the two-day referendum on Tuesday and Wednesday. Official results are expected by Saturday, January 18.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who toppled Morsi following mass protests against his one-year rule, was also monitoring the vote for a sign of support as he mulls running for the presidency, officials said.

Given a boycott by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, the result of the referendum has never been in doubt, but the military-installed government is hoping for a large turnout to bolster its democratic credentials after the overthrow of Morsi in July.

It was the first vote since Morsi’s ouster, and authorities say the new constitution provides greater protection for freedom of speech and women’s rights than the one adopted under him.

“This was also a referendum on June 30,” said government spokesman Hany Salah, referring to the day when millions of protesters took to the streets demanding Morsi’s resignation.

A coalition led by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has organized near daily rallies against his overthrow, claimed the referendum was a “farce” and pledged further protests.

“We will continue the days of rage,” the Anti-Coup Alliance said in a statement.

A student was killed on Thursday, January 16, in clashes between pro-Morsi students and opponents inside Cairo University campus, the interior ministry said.

The referendum has put the Islamists on the back foot, and gives the government even less incentive to negotiate with Morsi’s movement, already designated as a terrorist group battered by a bloody crackdown.

“We are definitely moving forward, whether they want to or not,” Salah said of the Brotherhood. “We believe they live in a virtual world.”

The Muslim Brotherhood had hoped a low turnout would send a message of discontent over Morsi’s overthrow and the crackdown on his supporters.

On Tuesday, clashes between Morsi supporters and their opponents and police killed at least nine people and at least 444 people were arrested for protesting and disrupting polling, officials said.

Sisi needs high turnout

The government said it was aiming for a larger turnout than the 33 percent of 53 million registered voters who approved a constitution under Morsi in 2012 by 64 percent.

Such a turn out would be an “indicator” of support for a presidential bid by Sisi, said an official close to him.

Analysts say a turnout higher than that will decide the future of the Muslim Brotherhood.

“A turnout higher than what the 2012 constitution received will show that Morsi and the Brotherhood have been excluded from the country’s political scene, at least in the near term,” Hassan Nafea, professor of political science at Cairo University, told AFP. –

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