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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketer

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ideal candidates for the role m...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific