Egypt Passes Constitution With 98 Percent Public Approval

Egypt's new constitution has won near-unanimous approval in the public vote, though polls were marred by dissent crackdowns and boycotts.
Posted at 7:46 PM, Jan 18, 2014

After two revolutions and almost three years of political turmoil, Egypt might finally be getting back on its feet. The country's new constitution was ratified Saturday in a landslide vote. 

Egypt's electoral authorities announced over 98 percent of voters had approved the new constitution. Voter turnout was estimated to be about 38 percent of eligible voters. That's more people than voted on former President Mohammed Morsi's constitution, but fewer than the 42 percent voter turnout on the constitution drafted a few weeks after longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak's ouster. (Via Euronews, Voice of America)

After the fall of both Mubarak and Morsi's governments, Egypt's new constitution is seen by many Egyptians as the best chance to restore the country's shattered order and crippled economy. One voter told The Guardian"I'm saying yes so that the country can rise again, and so that the people can eat."

The referendum is also seen as a vote of confidence in the military and the interim government. The Independent notes Egypt's military leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has publicly signaled a run for president if the referendum approval vote is strong.

But The New York Times notes the election's outcome was never really in doubt — Egyptian authorities cracked down on dissenting voices ahead of the vote.

"Almost no critics of the charter were able to express their views in the news media or the streets. And several activists were arrested just for hanging signs urging a no vote."

And Al Jazeera notes the poll was boycotted by many supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, along with other opposition groups. One protester said "we can never participate and give legitimacy to a regime which fools the people and tries to act like it is a civil democratic regime, while it is neither democratic nor civil."

The near-unanimous vote prompted a note of caution from the U.S. State Department, which reminded Egypt's leaders the country is still several steps short of a fully fledged democracy. "Democracy is more than any one referendum or election. It is about equal rights and protections under the law for all Egyptians."

BBC correspondent James Reynolds predicts the constitutional vote will be seen as a failure by most of Egypt's revolutionaries, but adds the country is badly in need of any kind of stability right now.

"I think liberals will still disappointed. If you'd asked them a few years ago, did they really go to have a revolution to get the military back, at that time they would have said no they didn't. But now this is I think the least bad world, the least bad option for them."

Votes to elect Egypt's president and parliamentary leaders are scheduled to be held sometime this year.