Observers say voters in Egypt are heading to the polls to effectively “vote away their rights” by signing onto a “military dictated” constitution that leaves the military as an ‘omnipotent’ entity in Egypt’s political framework. The two-day referendum on the constitution, which was designed by the military in the wake of the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi back in July of 2013, has been bogged down between a mixture of complacency and clashes.
Some voters have openly refused resigning against the constitution, saying that the prospect of a ‘no’ vote is too overwhelming in the midst of such political instability. Many voters in Egypt say that they would rather have in place a poorly written constitution than none at all. Others support the constitution for its harsh restrictions on the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“This is just a message that we don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Inas Mazen, a 60 year old doctor interviewed at a polling station in Egypt’s upper class neighborhood of Mohandessin. “We want a new regime of freedom and democracy,”
And while some voters have chosen to view the referendum as the next step forward in fostering Egypt’s political stability, clashes between police and protesters loyal to former President Mohammed Morsi resulted in the death of five people. The clashes on the first day of voting in Egypt began in the early hours of voting.
Another incident involving gunmen on rooftops during a pro-Morsi rally in the city of Sohag left another four dead, leaving a total of 9 people dead on the first day of voting in Egypt.
Other clashes have sprout up in and around polling stations across Egypt, leaving many wounded and seriously injured.
Pro-Morsi demonstrators opened fire at a polling station, meanwhile throwing rocks and chaining the entrance doors shut, leaving voters intimidated and scared to head out to the polls.
The latest reports in Egypt’s referendum says that about 15% of Egyptians have showed up to the polls so far.
The biggest grievance amongst those who oppose this new constitution is the outlined immunity for the Egyptian military, as well as the lack of civilian control over the army, police, and intelligence services, a pre-requisite for any functioning democracy say analysts.
Meanwhile protesters who have chosen to demonstrate peacefully have been arrested and prosecuted for “trying to change the constitution’s principles.”, an offense outlined under the military’s oppressive rule.
The efforts by the military to crackdown on dissent has left once peaceful protesters little to no choice, instead resorting to violence to make their disapproval heard.
According to Human Rights Watch, in total 27 people have been killed and 703 arrested while peacefully demonstrating against the proposed constitution.
Once embattled enemies, Islamists and secular pro-democracy leaders, now find themselves on the same side of the military’s oppression, both being targeted and jailed for their participation in “unsanctioned demonstrations.”
Egypt’s military has shutdown opposition media, and a number of journalists have been imprisoned without charge, including three from Al Jazeera.
And while voters in Egypt are heading to the polls to vote on the military designed constitution, there is still no word on when presidential and parliamentary elections will be held. The military has promised that the elections would follow the ratification of the new constitution, but skeptics are weary of the military’s intent.
by John Amaruso