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77% Egyptians Say “Yes” to Constitutional Amendments

New Delhi (Moneycontrol): Egyptians have voted overwhelmingly to constitutional amendments, allowing the country to move swiftly toward fresh parliamentary and presidential elections.

Moving further beyond the legacy of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year authoritarian regime, in the first test for democracy 77.2% Egyptians voted “yes” to the nine constitutional amendments suggested by a committee formed by the Supreme Armed Forces Council.

More than 18 million voters, or about 41% of those eligible, cast ballots nationwide on Saturday.

The amendments limit the presidency to two four-year terms and lay out the requirement of a public referendum for imposing a state of emergency that lasts longer than six months. Egypt has been under a state of emergency for the last 30 years.

Other amendments in the package make easier the requirements for independent candidates seeking the presidency, besides laying out complete judicial oversight for elections.

By virtue of this result, the amended articles are the only active ones, while the rest of the constitution is suspended until a new constitution is written. The military-led transitional government has promised to hold free and fair elections in June.

One of the provisions in the amendments requires the new parliament to appoint a constitutional assembly within six months of taking office. The constitutional assembly will then be responsible for drafting a new constitution, which would be put to another referendum before taking effect.

For Egyptians, the referendum was the first truly free vote in three decades. However, it divided Egyptians between those who said the reforms would suffice and others who said the constitution needed a complete rewrite.

While Egypt”s two main political forces, the former ruling National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood, had both asked people to vote a “yes”, other opposition groups, including, Nobel Laureate Mohammad Elbaradei”s camp. The cultural ”elite” are also unsatisfied with the result seeing it as a sign the religious groups and hardliners are popular.
Many of the people who voted “yes” said they want the economy to get back on track as the country has been suffering since the revolution on 25 January.

The Cairo Alexandria Stock Exchange has been shut since 28 January and is facing the possibility of being taken-off international indices if the shutdown is longer than three months.

The junta-sponsored referendum had come in for criticism by four human rights groups, who filed complaints with the higher judicial committee alleging some irregularities during the voting. The groups, including

Observers without Borders, the New World Foundation for Development and Human Rights, alleged members of the National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood as well as Salafists tried to influence voters during voting held for the constitutional amendments.

Even officials at polling stations attempted to convince voters to vote “yes”, they said.

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