Egyptian judges review ballot on divisive constitution

Mohammed Morsi
Mohammed Morsi

About a third of the eligible voters participated in the Egypt constitution referendum.

Egyptian judges were investigating opposition accusations of voting irregularities on Monday before declaring the result of a referendum set to show that a contentious new constitution has been approved.

President Mohamed Morsi sees the basic law, drawn up mostly by Islamists, as a vital step in Egypt’s transition to democracy almost two years after the fall of military-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak.

The opposition, a loose alliance of liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians, says the document is too Islamist, ignores the rights of minorities and represents a recipe for more trouble in the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Critics have also said the vote, conducted over two stages in a process that ended on Saturday, was marred by a litany of irregularities, and have demanded a full inquiry.

“The committee is currently compiling results from the first and second phase and votes from Egyptians abroad, and is investigating complaints,’’ Judge Mahmoud Abu Shousha, a member of the committee, said.

He said no time had been set for an announcement of the final outcome, but it appeared unlikely to be on Monday.

A tally by the Muslim Brotherhood, which lifted Mr. Morsi into the presidency, indicated a 64 per cent “yes” vote, although only a third of the 51 million eligible Egyptians took part.

An opposition count was similar, but they claimed the ballot had been marred by abuses in both rounds.

By forcing the pace on the constitution, opponents say Mr. Morsi risks squandering the opportunity to build consensus for the austerity measures desperately needed to kick start an ailing economy.

Highlighting investor concerns, Standard and Poor’s cut Egypt’s long-term credit rating on Monday and said another cut was possible if political turbulence worsened.

The low turnout also prompted some independent newspapers to question how much support the charter really had, with opponents saying Morsi had lost the vote in much of the capital.

“The referendum battle has ended, and the war over the constitution’s legitimacy has begun,’’ the newspaper Al-Shorouk wrote in a headline; while a headline in Al-Masry Al-Youm read: “Constitution of the minority.”

Reuters/NAN