A key referendum on Egypt’s amended Constitution will be held next month.
A key referendum on Egypt’s amended Constitution will be held next month, the interim president said on Saturday, calling on citizens to vote “yes” for a document that will be a major test for the country’s militarybacked government and political transition plan.
Adly Mansour said the vote, set for Jan 14 and 15, would be a first step toward building a modern democratic state.
“The document in our hands today is a text that should make every Egyptian proud, and (is) the correct starting point for building the institutions of the modern democratic state that we all aspire to,’’ he said to an audience of government officials, members of the panel that drafted the constitution, and relatives of victims of Egypt’s past three years of unrest.
The amended draft constitution, finalized earlier in December by a 50- member panel that Mansour appointed, is a key step in the political road map activated by the military after it removed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi from power in July.
It replaces the Constitution drafted by an Islamist-led panel, approved in a referendum last year, and suspended after Morsi’s ouster.
The Islamist-drafted charter had galvanized opposition against Morsi, amid a last minute walkout from the secular and Christian members of the 100-panel member, appointed then by the Islamist-dominated parliament. Opponents were protesting the charter because they said it had an Islamist slant, giving religious interpretations a greater role in legislation and trampling on rights and freedoms.
Despite a 63 percent approval, turnout was low — a little more than 30 percent — and many of Morsi’s opponents used the disputed Constitution as a rallying point to campaign against him.
State television has already launched a campaign calling on Egyptians to vote yes in the referendum. Billboards are up around Cairo, urging voters to take part in the referendum as a sign of support for post-Morsi arrangements.
“After we wasted a long time, that passed slowly, heavily and harshly on many of Egypt’s poor, it is time we complete our revolution and rebuild this nation to realize the popular aspirations and ambitions,’’ Mansour said in a televised speech.
Egypt’s foreign minister Nabil Fahmy arrived in Beijing on Saturday and was expected to meet senior Chinese officials on Monday. On Friday, China reduced the level of its warnings to Chinese nationals traveling to Egypt.
Morsi supporters, largely Islamist groups led by the Muslim Brotherhood, have held near daily protests calling for Morsi’s reinstatement and a return to the 2012 constitution. It is likely that they will boycott the upcoming referendum, although a formal announcement is expected this week.
“We are heading toward a boycott campaign,’’ said Islam Tawfiq, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party. “Participating in the referendum, even with a no vote, would be an implicit recognition of the legitimacy of the (militarybacked) road map.’’
Some Islamists however are rallying behind the new referendum. The ultra-conservative Salafist Al-Nour party, the only Islamist party who took part in the drafting process, is campaigning for a yes vote, inviting harsh criticism from Morsi allies — some of whom portray the new document as anti-Islamic.