Military

Egyptians Protest Islamist-Backed Constitution

by Edward Yeranian December 18, 2012

Egypt's opposition National Salvation Front is holding demonstrations Tuesday to protest a controversial two-stage constitutional referendum.

Opponents of the draft document argue that it tramples civil liberties and ultimately will give Islamists control of the judiciary.

Opposition protesters gathered outside half a dozen Cairo mosques Tuesday afternoon, staging multiple marches toward the presidential palace and Tahrir Square. The marchers decried Saturday's first-stage constitutional referendum, which opposition leaders and many jurists claim was tainted by fraud.

Probe promised

At the same time, the justice ministry announced in a press conference that it would investigate those charges. Ahmed Salam, deputy head of Egypt's appellate court, read a statement by Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki, vowing to investigate.

Salem said the minister has decided it is his duty, based on the statutes, to investigate various complaints during the first round of the referendum, including the alleged presence of non-judges supervising certain polling stations.

More than two-thirds of Egypt's judges refused to supervise the first round of voting, to protest attempts to force a quick approval of the controversial constitution.

Judges irate

Members of the judiciary also are irate about a clause in the document allowing the president to pack the country's top court, giving him control of the judiciary.

Adding to confusion over the referendum, a group of judges - who did help supervise the first round - declared it would not participate in the second and final round Saturday.

Hamdy Yassine of the State Council's Judge's Club said that his judicial body will not oversee the second round of polling, because the proper assurances have not been given by government officials about conditions at polling stations.

In a related development, Egypt's newly nominated top prosecutor, Tala'at Ibrahim Abdallah, resigned after protests by his peers.

Uneasy transition

Abdallah's nomination by President Mohamed Morsi created a tempest after what many judges considered the illegal dismissal of his predecessor.

Egypt's Supreme Judiciary Council, however, will not decide whether to accept Abdallah's resignation until it meets on Sunday.

Residents of 17 provinces are due to vote Saturday in the second and last stage of Egypt's constitutional referendum.

Unofficial reports indicated that 56.5 percent of voters approved the document in the first round, amid charges of fraud. Reports also say that a majority of voters in Cairo voted down the new constitution.



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