Egypt hails landmark vote for change, says local daily

WAM ABU DHABI, 18th January, 2014 (WAM)–The large turnout in the Egyptian referendum has been hailed by the authorities as a signal of strong approval of the ouster of former president Mohammed Mursi. The constitution won wide support among the many Egyptians who favoured Mursi’s removal.

The Muslim Brotherhood had called for a boycott, saying the vote was part of a coup that deposed an elected leader and revived a brutal police state, an argument that didn’t make any sense with right-thinking political observers.

“The vote is a sign of widespread yearning for a return to stability after almost three years of violent disorder that has crippled the economy, impoverishing many”, English language local daily, The Gulf Today, commented in its editorial on Saturday.

More than 90 per cent of voters approved the new constitution in the two-day referendum. The official results are expected on Saturday. The military-installed government was hoping for a large turnout to beef up its democratic standing after the overthrow of Mursi in July.

The high turnout could be welcome news for Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who is also monitoring the vote for a sign of support as he mulls running for the presidency, officials said. It was the first vote since Mursi’s ouster, and authorities say the new constitution provides greater protection for freedom of speech and women’s rights than the one adopted under him.

The president’s spokesman Ehab Badawy “remarked, on the high turnout in the referendum, that it was a beautiful day for Egypt and democracy,” a statement said. Predictably, a coalition led by Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has organised near daily rallies against his overthrow, claimed the referendum was a “farce” and pledged further protests.

The US administration is closely watching the results of Egypt’s referendum, but has not yet decided whether to unlock some $1.5 billion in aid to its leaders, a US official said on Thursday. Washington suspended its aid, after expressing its ire that there had been little indication of a return to democracy since the overthrow.

The paper noted that the referendum has put the hardliners on the backfoot, and gives the Egyptian government even less incentive to negotiate with Mursi’s movement, already designated as a terrorist group battered by a bloody crackdown.

The Muslim Brotherhood had hoped a low turnout would send a message of discontent over Mursi’s overthrow and the crackdown on his supporters. The Brotherhood dominated every poll since the ouster of long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. But the movement, accused of trying to monopolise power, quickly alienated many Egyptians after Mursi took office.

The constitution was drafted by a 50-member committee appointed by decree. It deletes controversial hardline-inspired provisions written into the basic law approved when Mursi was still in office, and strengthens the state bodies that defied him: the army, the police and the judiciary.

It also allows the military to try civilians WAM/Majok

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