High voter turnout for Egypt’s constitutional referendum could pave way for El Sisi’s presidential bid

By bne IntelliNews January 15, 2014

Voter turnout on the first day of Egypt’s constitutional referendum seemed high despite sporadic violence by Islamist groups lead by the Muslim Brotherhood which called for a boycott. The draft, which substantively amends the constitution of December 2012 drawn by Islamists, kept key sections of the previous constitution regarding the sharing of power between the executive and legislative branches of government with checks and balances imposed on the president’s power.

While it retains the privileges enjoyed by Egypt’s all powerful army, it curtails their ability to give trial to civilians in military courts to cases involving attack on military installations. Regarding the role of religion in society, the amended draft constitution reaches a compromise between liberals and Salafi groups espousing a puritanical version of Islam by retaining the clause stipulating that principles of Shariah are the source of legislation, while omitting an article that adds the rulings of Shariah courts to the principle of Shariah introduced in the constitution of December 2012.

With news of high voter turnout coming in before the end of the exchange trading hours, Egypt’s stock market reached levels not seen since the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak in January 2011 with the main EGX 30 index closing at 7196 points up 1.11%. Meanwhile, news of progress on a constitutional referendum taking place in Cairo encouraged the US congress to add a clause to the US budget law to be voted on as early as this week allowing the Obama administration to restore USD 1.5bn in aid to Egypt.

Should the referendum on the amended constitution receive a high public turnout in its second and final day of voting, in the absence of the Islamists opposition, a 'Yes' vote would be an all but forgone conclusion. It would also be interpreted as a 'Yes' vote to the political roadmap read out by General Abdel Fatah El Sisi in cooperation with other political actors upon deposing former President Mohamed Morsi following massive street protests on July 30th 2013 further enhancing the popular general’s chances of making a bid for the presidency.

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