Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing says 56.5% voted for draft constitution but opposition warns of violations in first round poll
Recriminations have broken out over Egypt’s constitutional referendum even before the two-stage vote has been completed, with the Muslim Brotherhood claiming victory and the opposition complaining of rigging and insisting the no camp has triumphed.
Unofficial overnight results from Saturday’s first round showed 56.5% approval to 43% rejection on a turnout of 33%, with a clear no win in Cairo, one of 10 of Egypt’s governorates where polling took place. The referendum is to be held in the country’s remaining 17 governorates next Saturday.
The figures reported by the Freedom and Justice party (FJP), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, were based on 99% of the votes being counted. If confirmed, the referendum will be a victory for Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who was elected president on a 51% mandate in June.
Gehad El-Haddad, a senior Brotherhood and FJP adviser, said: “We thank Allah and the people of Egypt for such honourable practice of democratic participation and although approval [is] lower than expected, we are glad it’s “yes.”"
But the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) claimed 66% voted no to the controversial draft basic law. It said it had detected “unprecedented rigging”, including 750 violations. These included unstamped voting papers, the names of deceased persons on voting lists, the absence of observers at polling stations, and delays in opening. The Egyptian Coalition for Human Rights reported cases of financial inducements for voting yes.
Mohamed ElBaradei, the co-ordinator of the NSF, warned in a Twitter message: “Country split, flagrant irregularities, low turnout, disillusion with Islamists on the rise. Illiteracy remains a hurdle.”
Egyptians of all political views agree that stability will remain elusive through the second anniversary of the outbreak of the revolution on 25 January. Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years, was overthrown on 11 February.
The referendum was largely peaceful, but violence erupted on Saturday night when the Cairo headquarters of the liberal Wafd party, part of the NSF, came under attack from unknown assailants. Wafd accused the Salafist preacher Hazem Abu-Ismail of being involved but he denied any responsibility.
The hastily arranged vote follows three weeks of protests and sporadic violence after Morsi, who pledged last June to rule for all Egyptians, adopted sweeping powers bypassing the judiciary and rushed through completion of the draft constitutional text in the constituent assembly.
In a highly polarised atmosphere, the Muslim Brotherhood camp has complained of a counter-revolution against a democratically elected president by a coalition of anti-Islamist activists and so-called “felool” or remnants of the Mubarak regime.
But secular and liberal opponents, including many Muslims, say they object to his undemocratic and non-consensual behaviour and an ambiguous constitution flawed by what it says or implies about the role of Islam and clerical scholars, the position of the still-powerful army, presidential appointments, rights and other fundamental issues.
Independent Egyptian and foreign observers argue that a divided opposition has seized too gleefully on Morsi’s miscalculations and vacillation and now risks raising the stakes with an escalation of the crisis.
If passed, the constitution will pave the way for new parliamentary elections early next year. The last national assembly, dominated by the Brotherhood and conservative Salafis, was dissolved.