Egypt president sets date for referendum
Egypt will hold a public referendum on its newly-drafted constitution on January 14 and 15, interim President Adly Mansour said on Saturday.
The vote will be the first major milestone on the political “road map” outlined by the army after it overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president, in July.
A committee of ten legal experts was appointed in July to amend a constitution approved just months earlier during Morsi’s tenure. Their changes were sent to a larger 50-member committee of politicians and representatives from various interest groups, from the army to the church. They handed a final draft to the president earlier this month.
“This is truly a historic moment, a defining moment in our modern history,” Mansour said on Saturday. “[The constitution] has not reached the degree of perfection… but it is a historically important breakthrough for the nation.”
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which rejects the entire road map, is expected to either call for a boycott or urge its supporters to vote “no”.
Revolutionary groups have also denounced the charter because of several controversial articles, particularly one which allows civilians to face military trials.
But most of Egypt’s secular parties have announced their support for the draft, as did the salafi Nour Party, the country’s second-largest Islamist grouping after the Brotherhood.
Analysts say the charter will likely be approved, though it is unclear how many Egyptians will vote in the referendum, the seventh nationwide ballot since the January 2011 revolution that overthrew longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
Amr Moussa, the head of the 50-member drafting committee, told the Associated Press news agency earlier this week that he hopes for a “huge” turnout and a 70 percent “yes” vote.
The 2012 constitution was approved by a 64 percent margin, but only one-third of eligible voters turned out.
After the referendum, the road map calls for parliamentary elections in the spring, and a presidential vote by early summer. The draft constitution allows Mansour to reverse that order, however, which would give Egypt’s notoriously disorganised secular parties more time to prepare for the parliamentary ballot.