Egyptians appear to back charter but Opposition alleges vote fraud

 

Cairo, Egypt

Egypt's main opposition bloc on Sunday alleged widespread fraud and called for mass protests after preliminary results showed supporters of a controversial draft constitution winning a solid majority in the first round of balloting.

The call had the potential to throw Egypt back into disarray after several days of relative calm that included orderly voting Saturday by about 8 million citizens. Preliminary tallies by the Muslim Brotherhood and state media showed that 57 percent of voters backed the constitution, with a second round of voting still to come. Many of those who voted for the charter said they were doing so to restore stability to the country after nearly two years of tumult that began with a successful push to oust President Hosni Mubarak.

But in a Sunday night news conference, the opposition National Salvation Front alleged there had been thousands of complaints of voting irregularities that "went beyond the rigging that used to take place under the previous regime."

The group, a loose coalition of liberals, leftists and Christians that has emerged to challenge the ruling Islamists, called on Egyptians to protest Tuesday "in order to defend their free will and to prevent any rigging of their decisions."

The opposition's reaction to its apparent defeat seemed to end any hopes that the referendum might bring calm to Egypt after weeks of clashes over both the substance of the new constitution and the hurried way it was put before voters.

The unofficial results of the first round reflected a narrower-than-expected victory for the charter, which was strongly backed by President Mohamed Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood. Wider margins are forecast Saturday during the second and final round of balloting, when voting shifts to smaller cities and more rural areas, where Islamists have a clear edge.

"The Egyptian people have expressed their free will," the Brotherhood's political arm said in a statement. The group's early vote tallies have proved accurate in past elections.

But opposition leaders quickly disputed the unofficial results, claiming that the referendum had actually been voted down by wide margins in the major cities of Cairo and Alexandria. Rights groups, meanwhile, said that the voting was inadequately monitored and that some people had been prevented from casting ballots. They called for a rerun of the referendum.

With Morsi staking his young government on the new charter, that was considered highly unlikely. In the weeks before the referendum, Morsi gave himself extraordinary powers as he maneuvered to bring the constitution to a vote. Resulting street clashes left at least 10 people dead and hundreds injured.

Although much of Egypt was calm Saturday during the vote, the unrest resumed overnight, with the liberal al-Wafd party saying that its offices had been attacked by a group of hard-line Islamists known as Salafists.

"The referendum has passed, but it doesn't mean the end of the divide in this country," said Gamal Soltan, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo. "The opposition may be demoralized in the short term, but the reasons for the anger are still there."

Opposition leader and former foreign minister Amr Moussa said in an interview that even if 57 percent of Egyptians voted in favor of the document, "it means there is no consensus on the constitution." Moussa said that a two-thirds majority should be required for such a critical vote but conceded that the opposition would have little choice but to accept the results if the projected margins hold.

Brotherhood supporters, meanwhile, were confident that their side had won and that with each successive victory at the ballot box, their vision for Egypt was coming to pass.

"Freedom for the seculars is different than freedom for the Islamists," said Ahmed Morad, a 40-year-old Brotherhood supporter. "The seculars call for the separation of religion and state. The Islamists are calling for the state and religion to be the same thing."

Egyptians disagree over whether that is where the constitution will lead. The document establishes Islamic law as the principal source of legislation, but so did the constitution that was in force throughout Mubarak's tenure.

The new charter includes provisions protecting the rights of Christians and Jews, and proclaims the people, not God, to be the source of all government authority. Many Salafists have expressed disappointment that the document does not go as far as they would like in promoting the role of religion in public life.

But secular opponents of the draft constitution say it is vague enough that legislators and judges can use it to restrict the rights of women and religious minorities. Non-Islamists pulled out of the constitution-writing process before it was complete, arguing that their views were not being taken into account.

If the constitution passes, the focus in Egypt would quickly shift to parliamentary elections, which must be held within two months. Islamists dominated the previous elections, held a year ago, the results of which were later annulled.

The opposition, which has been beset by division and disorganization, has only a small window to decide whether to continue to protest the constitution or focus on the parliamentary vote.

Opposition leaders have proved adept at bringing thousands to the streets to demonstrate, but they have been far less successful in attracting the millions of voters necessary to win at the ballot box.

At a time when many Egyptians appear to crave stability, a return to protests could be risky for a group that had been showing signs of greater political maturity.

"Even though they lost, they developed organizationally," Soltan said. "Whether they will be able to maintain that is an unanswered question."

---

Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum