ISSN 2330-717X

Egypt Referendum Power Show For Muslim Brotherhood – OpEd


By Mohyeddin Sajedi

The recent referendum in Egypt on amending certain constitutional provisions was not merely a domestic event for the country, but it had regional and international ramifications for the African nation as well.

Nevertheless, given the volatile situation in the Middle East and developing events in other Arab countries, Egypt’s referendum is not much the focus of attention.

The referendum led to the amendment of some constitutional provisions regarding the way the president is elected as well as his powers. Under the Mubarak-era Constitution, only Mubarak or his son or a ruling party member was allowed to run for president. The Constitution also set such tough requirements for candidacy that many qualified hopefuls were left out of the race.

The new constitutional reforms have, to a great extent, eased those conditions, cutting the length of the presidential term and limiting the president’s powers.

The new modifications were made by a committee set up by Egypt’s Military Council immediately after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down from power. The committee was comprised of popular jurists.

However, certain Egyptian revolutionary youth leaders plus key parties and presidential hopefuls disagreed with the reforms. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei are two renowned politicians who have n0ominated themselves for president so far.


Both were self-styled supporters who wanted to take part in the referendum, but say “no” to limited constitutional reforms. The two politicians plus certain young leaders of the Egyptian Revolution at Liberation Square believe a new Constitution should be drawn up by elite lawmakers and later be put to referendum.

ElBaradei is of the conviction that holding parliamentary and presidential elections sooner will help Mubarak-era organized parties come to power. Moussa had also announced that strong parties should be formed in Egypt before elections are held.

At the opposite end of the spectrum was Muslim Brotherhood together with the Military Council which called for voters to say “yes” to constitutional amendments. Several less important parties and liberal groups in Egypt’s political arena also asked people to vote for the reforms.

It was the first time the Egyptian people participated in a new referendum which was quite different from Mubarak-era referendums in that voters were not coerced and threatened by the regime’s elements, and voting remained unaffected by the political and economic power networks. Therefore, the referendum was marked by a large voter turnout.

Irrespective of voter feelings about taking part in the first free and fair referendum after Mubarak’s ouster, the outcome of the plebiscite took on great significance. Almost 77 percent of those who took part in the referendum voted for constitutional changes.

Some worried lest the Egyptian referendum would create divisions in society at a time when it was all the more important to maintain unity until a permanent government took over. However, the results of the referendum dispelled the fear as the absolute majority of the Egyptian people were united in their decision.

Egypt’s referendum for constitutional reform was somehow a playing field for Egyptian parties and groups where the Muslim Brotherhood managed to flex its muscles and show off its power.

The Muslim Brotherhood had announced it has no intention of fielding candidates in the Egyptian presidential vote, but the results of the referendum have cast doubt on the possibility of Moussa or ElBaradei becoming President.

Another conclusion which can be drawn from the referendum’s outcome is that Egyptians trust the nation’s military council and new government both of which are transitional and seek to set the scene for holding presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s muscle-flexing and Egypt’s new government are undoubtedly monitored by Israel.

Unlike in the Mubarak era, Egypt’s new foreign minister has warned Tel Aviv about its strikes on the Gaza Strip which have killed eight people in simply one day.

The explosion in al-Quds (East Jerusalem) in which an Israeli woman was killed has given Netanyahu and other Israeli rightists yet another chance to flex their muscles under the pretext of ensuring Israel’s security. However, even many in Israel believe it was the Netanyahu government that initiated the recent attacks.

The Hamas and Fatah movements believe Israel’s deadly raids on Gaza partly aim to destroy the grounds for a possible compromise among Palestinians.

Israel’s big problem is that it still adjusts its relations with Palestinians based on their relationship before the recent uprisings in the Middle East.

Israel has asked Facebook to erase the page calling for an Intifada on May 15 from its pages. This reaction coupled with fierce attacks on Gaza and the killing of women and children shows Israeli leaders are still not willing to admit that everything is changing in the Middle East.

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