Op­po­si­tion vows to fight on de­spite ap­proval of char­ter

Is­lamist-backed ref­er­en­dum’s foes claim voter fraud.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Sarah El Deeb

CAIRO — Egypt’s op­po­si­tion said Sun­day it will keep fight­ing the Is­lamist­backed con­sti­tu­tion af­ter the Mus­lim Brother­hood, the main group back­ing the char­ter, claimed it passed with a 64 per­cent “yes” vote in a ref­er­en­dum.

The op­po­si­tion al­leged vote fraud and de­manded an in­ves­ti­ga­tion — a sign that the ref­er­en­dum will not end the tur­moil that has roiled this coun­try for nearly two years since the upris­ing that ousted au­thor­i­tar­ian leader Hosni Mubarak.

Many Egyp­tians, es­pe­cially the tens of mil­lions who live in ex­treme poverty, had hoped the new con­sti­tu­tion might usher in a pe­riod of more sta­bil­ity.

A heated po­lit­i­cal de­bate over the past month lead­ing up to the ref­er­en­dum at times erupted into deadly street bat­tles. There were no mass op­po­si­tion demon­stra­tions on Sun­day af­ter the unof­fi­cial re­sults came out.

Re­newed vi­o­lence and po­lit­i­cal ten­sions have fur­ther im­per­iled Egypt’s al­ready pre­car­i­ous econ­omy, reel­ing from dwin­dling re­sources and a cash-strapped government whose plans to bor­row from the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund had to be pushed back be­cause of the tur­moil.

The fi­nance min­istry said Sun­day the bud­get deficit reached $13 bil­lion in the five months from July-Novem­ber, about 4.5 per­cent higher com­pared to the same pe­riod last year.

Of­fi­cial re­sults of the ref­er­en­dum are not ex­pected un­til Mon­day. If the unof­fi­cial num­bers are con­firmed, it will be a vic­tory Is­lamist Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi, who is from the Brother­hood.

But the op­po­si­tion al­le­ga­tions look likely to pro­long the fight.

Be­yond al­le­ga­tions of fraud, the op­po­si­tion will likely chal­lenge new laws is­sued on the ba­sis of the con­sti­tu­tion as well as Morsi’s eco­nomic poli­cies.

“The ref­er­en­dum is not the end game. It is only a bat­tle in this long strug­gle for the fu­ture of Egypt,” said the Na­tional Sal­va­tion Front, the main op­po­si­tion group. “We will not al­low a change to the iden­tity of Egypt or the re­turn of the age of tyranny.”

The op­po­si­tion claims the new con­sti­tu­tion seeks to en­shrine Is­lamic rule in Egypt and ac­cuses the Is­lamists of try­ing to mo­nop­o­lize power.


Egyp­tian jour­nal­ists tape their mouths and raise their pens dur­ing a demon­stra­tion against the draft con­sti­tu­tion in Cairo on Sun­day.

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