Egyptians are being asked to vote “yes” for the new constitution, drafted by a committee of 50 prominent representatives of every sector of society headed by Amr Moussa, former secretary-general of the Arab League. Those who have studied it say it is the finest constitution the country has ever had giving protection to workers, fellahin, minorities and women.
It is expected to pass by a whopping majority but some eligible to cast their ballots feel intimidated by threats of violence by the Muslim Brotherhood that has vowed to do everything in its power to disrupt the political roadmap.
Local television anchors have reported receiving text messages on their mobiles threatening the lives of anyone who participates; messages they say have gone out to over a million recipients. Likewise, the Egyptian Embassy in London announced over 5,000 text messages were sent to Egyptian residents falsely informing them that the referendum had been postponed until the following week, necessitating embassy staff pulling an all-nighter to rectify the situation with counter-text messages.
Newspapers have stressed on the low turnout abroad without analyzing the reasons why. In the first place, unlike the 2012 “Mursi” referendum, postal votes were not allowed. No reasons have been given, but, no doubt, the government is alert to trickery these days. Secondly, Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers chose not to participate. Thirdly, people who turned up at embassies and consulates who hadn’t registered to vote in advance were turned away. Lastly, a cold spell in Europe and in the United States, where temperatures plummeted to minus 50 degrees Centigrade in some states, kept people at home.
It’s also likely that some expat Egyptians living in western countries have been indoctrinated against the political process going forward by the relentless hammering of the interim government by the corporate media that’s heavily influenced by the positions of US and European leaderships still calling for “inclusiveness” even though the Brotherhood preferred violence to accepting the hand of friendship post Mursi-ousting on July 3 and is now officially branded “terrorist.” Nevertheless, according to various ambassadors, the vast majority of expats ticked “yes.”
Today and tomorrow — Jan. 14 and 15 — will be a defining moment for the most-populated Arab nation that’s been in turmoil since the January 2011 revolution. Everything rides on the constitution that will allow for presidential and parliamentary elections during the first half of this year. Most of those who’ll vote in favor are not only backing the constitution but also the toppling of a person they view as the worst president in their country’s long history. This is their chance to show their gratitude to the chief of the Armed Forces and Minister of Defense, Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sissi, who, they believe, took a courageous decision to rescue Egypt from a downward spiral that could have resulted in civil war. This referendum is also due to be fairer than that of 2012 thanks to a computer program devised to ensure that no individual can vote more than once, as happened extensively in the past.
The personal security of voters has been assured. Polling stations will be guarded by hundreds of thousands soldiers, Special Forces, commandos, police and intelligence officers, while helicopters will circle overhead to pinpoint trouble spots. People have been asked to avoid roofs so as not to be mistaken for snipers. Those plotting to use weapons in order to scare away voters should think again as the government has announced a zero-tolerance policy toward anyone out to interrupt the democratic process. This will arguably be the most extensive security operation the planet has ever witnessed in a country not at war — although it is true to say that Egypt is battling an enemy within, an organized foe with allegiance to a global organization rather than its own homeland.
Once the dust of the referendum has settled, the thoughts of every Egyptian will turn toward the question of who should be their next president. Gen. El-Sissi is without doubt the obvious candidate due to his popularity but until a few days ago his intentions weren’t clear. He now says he will run for president provided the army and the people support his candidacy, which hangs on the results of the referendum… or so he’s hinted. That was good news for the Bourse, which rocketed in response.
However, even Egyptians who appreciate the army chief are divided on this; some believe the country is safe as long as he remains firmly at the army’s helm. Others claim that he’s the only one with the charisma and capacity to inspire devotion needed to lead Egypt into tomorrow. He’s the only one that will receive the people’s mandate to implement painful decisions for the sake of all, they say. Potential candidates wait in the wings for his final decision; several — including Ahmed Shafiq and Hamdeen Sabahi, who came second and third, respectively, in 2012 — say if El-Sissi throws his hat into the ring, they will shelve their own candidacies and, instead throw their support behind is.
This is decision time for the Egyptian people. As someone who loves Egypt, I trust that they’ll make the right one.
Email: [email protected]