Egypt: Presidential run clear for Al-Sisi after majority vote for new constitution

Around 90% voters back new constitution, according to state-run media

Egyptians has overwhelmingly approved a new constitution by referendum, according to state media, a widely expected outcome that nudges army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ever closer to a bid for the presidency.

The vote advances a transition plan the military-backed government unveiled after deposing Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July following mass unrest over his rule.

The constitution won wide support among the many Egyptians who favoured Morsi's removal. The Muslim Brotherhood had called for a boycott, saying the vote was part of a coup that deposed an elected leader and revived a brutal police state.

But the vote was also a sign of widespread yearning for a return to stability after almost three years of violent disorder that has crippled the economy, impoverishing many.

The next step is expected to be a presidential election for which Sisi - wildly popular among his supporters - appears the only serious candidate. He has yet to declare he will run.

Around 90 per cent of the people who voted approved the constitution, state-run media reported. Al-Ahram, the state's flagship newspaper, said the constitution was approved by an “unprecedented majority”, citing early results.

The authorities, who have billed the transition plan as a path to democracy, have also jailed leading Islamists and, in recent weeks, secular-minded activists, including prominent figures in the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi and other top Brotherhood politicians are standing trial on charges including inciting violence and conspiring with foreign militant groups against Egypt. Several members of the secular protest movement have also been jailed for breaking a new law that tightly restricts the right to demonstrate.

While Western states have criticised the crackdown and called for inclusive politics, they have put little pressure on Cairo for certain strategic reasons.

Egypt controls the Suez Canal, the fastest sea shipping route between Asia and Europe, and has been a cornerstone of US policy in the Middle East since the 1970s, when it became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.

An Interior Ministry official said turnout appeared to be more than 55 per cent in what was the first vote since Morsi's overthrow. A pro-Morsi alliance, which had called for a boycott, alleged fraud had occurred but offered no proof.

State media, on the other hand, gave a more conservative estimate of 40 per cent turnout but said that the percentage of approval of the constitution exceeded 95 per cent, according to initial estimates.

“Early indications point to the fact that Egyptians made history this week with a high level of participation in the vote on the draft Constitution,” Ehab Badawy, Egypt's spokesman for the presidency, said in a statement.

“This vote represents a resounding rejection of terrorism and a clear endorsement of the roadmap to democracy, as well as economic development and stability.”

A decree is expected within days setting the date for presidential and parliamentary elections, Al-Ahram reported. The official result is expected to be announced on Saturday.

The constitution was drafted by a 50-member committee appointed by decree. It deletes controversial Islamist-inspired provisions written into the basic law approved when Morsi was still in office, and strengthens the state bodies that defied him: the army, the police and the judiciary.

Some of the Islamists' opponents pointed to the result as proof of a popular mandate for Mursi's ouster. “The Egyptians write the Brotherhood's death certificate,” Al-Youm Al-Sabea, a privately owned newspaper, declared on its front page.

Rights groups criticised the detention of seven activists from a moderately Islamist party campaigning for a “no” vote.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said they were arrested on suspicion of law-breaking and all but one of them, held in relation to a past conviction, had been released. It added that there was no ban on campaigning for a “no” vote.

The Brotherhood had called for protests during the voting. Nine people were killed on the first day of voting in clashes between its supporters and security forces. The Interior Ministry said 444 people were arrested during the two-day vote.

A student was killed and four others injured in clashes between opponents and supporters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood at Cairo University on Thursday, security sources said.

The referendum appeared to be a public vote of confidence in Sisi, 59, widely viewed as the most powerful figure in Egypt and by his supporters as the man needed to restore stability.

“I believe this is the most convenient time for Sisi to make an announcement if he has the intention to run,” said Mohamed Qadri Said, a retired army general who works at the state's Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic and Political Studies.

“I do not see anyone else running against him. He has done great things to the country and the people like him.”

The stock market has rallied to three-year highs this week, driven partly by hopes for more stable government.

But the country has also seen the bloodiest internal strife in its modern history since Morsi's ouster. Bombings, attacks on security forces and bloody street violence occur regularly.

The government declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation on 25 December. The group, outlawed for most of its 85-year life, says it remains committed to peaceful protest.

Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
house + home
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Life and Style
Bats detect and react to wind speed and direction through sensors on their wings
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living