Forty-one percent of eligible Egyptian voters turned out for yesterday’s referendum vote on proposed changes to the existing constitution. The previously-called “anti-government protesters,” now called “pro-democracy activists” urged citizens to show-up and vote no. They returned to Tahrir Square the evening before the vote. “Down with the Constitution” was the cry of thousands. Then…the next day…77+% percent of those voting, voted “yes,” and the measures were approved. Approval of the constitutional amendments is believed to favor the Muslim Brotherhood. The pro-democracy crowd took yet another step backward.
Two of Egypt’s top legal experts want the 1971 constitution annulled, and wanted the referendum vote stopped:
Badawi and Sayed discussed the most important amended articles, which will be put to a nation-wide referendum Saturday, especially article 148 that tackles the state of emergency.
“There is a difference between emergency law and the state of emergency,” Badawi told Al Arabiya. “The emergency law is permanent while the state of emergency is only declared in cases of crises like wars and natural disasters.”
Badawi explained that according to the amendments, the president has the right to declare the state of emergency for a period that does not exceed six months.
“This is a very long time and should have been much shorter. Plus, the article did not specify where exactly the state of emergency should be declared, which is supposed to be the place where the crisis occurs and not the whole nation…”
“If the amendments go through, the next parliamentary elections will be without real political parties. The constitution has to be written first and from the constitution comes the new president and parliament and not the other way round.”
I’m astonished that only 41% turned out to vote. Mohamed ElBaradei was stopped by a crowd, and kept from voting. He was chased from the polling place, where he was not allowed to enter, and he and his car were pelted by rocks. Was he the only one stopped from voting? He said he would vote ‘no,’ a position that should have put him in good accord with the pro-democracy activists, at least on this vote.
The identity and political leanings of the crowd denying ElBaradei the right to vote is not fully identified. They were described as “youths,” leading to the assumption that they were freedom fighters. He was taunted with chants: We don’t want you. We don’t want you.” and was called an “American agent,” yet the “freedom fighters” sought our help.
In the past, the Muslim Brotherhood supported ElBaradei, and the “freedom fighters” didn’t seem to realize that ElBaradei was a strong supporter of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and had never criticized Shariah law and the cruelties routinely meted out to Iranians under that law. The “youths” didn’t seem to know that ElBaradei is totally responsible for Iran’s advanced nuclear program, or that he was the world’s overseerer of all-things-nuclear on the globe – or that he could have “rung-the-bell” at anytime, but instead did not. They didn’t seem to know all this until Greta van Susteren had a chat with them (there is a video of that interview that I cannot locate this minute – but I will post it when I find it).
After Mubarak’s departure, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that they would form a political party and Iman Yusuf al-Qaradawi returned from Mubarak-ordered exile after being suspicioned in the assassination of Anwar Sadat. The Imam received quite a welcome. He and the Muslim Brotherhood are of one mind. Do you remember Wael Ghonin, the Google marketing exec who was was fighting with the freedom fighters, then was taken into custody by state police, then released after days? Al-Qaradawi kept Ghonim away from a rally shortly after Mubarak left. Simply wouldn’t allow him to share the stage. Radicals were flooding back into Egypt.
My assessment is a dim one, but it’s important to know that others on the scene, among the “pro-democracy activists” who do not necessarily feel the same. Wael Ghonim is one example. He is still tweeting from Cairo:
Ghonim Wael Ghonim (17 hours ago)
Speaking at Saqyet ElSawy in one hour about my dreams for a better #Egypt future.
Ghonim Wael Ghonim (19 hours ago)
“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory” – Gandhi
Ghonim Wael Ghonim March 19th
I voted “No” but if the majority voted “Yes”, I’ll respect the decision of the majority. We are now experiencing Democracy101.
With deference to Ghonim and The Arabist, both of whom undoubtedly have good reason to feel the way they feel, a good possibility exists that the referendum was an invitation to tyranny, and the Muslim Brotherhood has scored a big one.