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‘Divisive’ constitution likely to pass in Egyptian referendum
December 22, 2012, 6:13 pm

An Egyptian man casts his vote during a referendum on the new Egyptian constitution. Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images

An Egyptian man casts his vote during a referendum on the new Egyptian constitution. [Getty Images]

Millions of Egyptians today concluded voting on a referendum about a draft constitution, which local media pundits and analysts have said is controversial and has divided the country.

The first round of voting began on December 15 with unofficial results having the yes vote at 56 per cent.

Opponents of the draft say the language highly favours Islamist policies while sidelining minority rights and those of women.

They say they are particularly disturbed that the draft appears to ignore the rights of Christians, who make up at least nine per cent of the population.

But proponents of the draft, including President Mohamed Morsi, say passing the constitution will lead to greater stability and allow for economic progress.

They say the lack of a constitution has opened a vacuum for destabilising forces, which have created a sense of insecurity that has scared much-needed foreign investors away.

Most local forecasts indicate that the referendum will pass, but short of the overwhelming majority Islamists had once predicted.

This will then pave the way for parliamentary elections two months later.

But some opposition groups have warned that even if the constitution is accepted, protests and instability are likely to continue because Morsi has failed to gain a broad consensus.

“I see more unrest,” said Ahmed Said, head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party and a member of the opposition National Salvation Front.

The referendum comes amidst a period of street clashes and often confusing presidential decrees.

On November 22, Morsi issued a constitutional declaration, dis­missing Prosecutor General Abdel Maguid Mahmoud and replacing him with Talaat Ibrahim Abdullah.

The declaration also included a clause that Morsi’s assumed power could not be appealed or canceled by any individual or body.

The declaration sparked clashes between the liberal and Islamist blocs in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Ismailia, where Morsi’s supporters clashed with his oppo­nents.

Protesters torched the ruling Freedom and Justice Party’s offices.

On December 8, Morsi amended his earlier declaration and partially annulled some of the executive powers he had given himself.

Source: Agencies