18/12/2012 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Egypt’s opposition is leading mass protests to reject the Islamist-backed draft constitution, days after President Mohamed Morsi claimed victory in the first round of voting amid allegations of polling violations, including not allowing Christians to vote.
National Salvation Front, a coalition led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, has called for mass demonstrations on Tuesday to urge rejection of the charter, which was finalized by the Islamist-dominated constituent assembly after Christians and secular parties had pulled out of it alleging marginalization.
"Country split, flagrant irregularities, low turnout, disillusion w(ith) Islamists on the rise. Illiteracy remains a hurdle," ElBaradei said on Twitter after Saturday’s voting on the charter in 10 of 27 districts, following which the Muslim Brotherhood claimed the draft was approved by 57 percent of those who voted.
Voting in the remaining governorates is scheduled for the coming weekend. The constitution must be approved by more than 50 percent of voters who cast ballots.
Negad Al Boraie, who heads the Cairo-based legal rights advocacy organization United Group, told Wall Street Journal that poll workers in some cases blocked Christians from voting.
Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, had urged Christians to participate in the constitutional referendum, while stressing that the church would not push them to vote either 'yes' or 'no' in the poll.
Boraie added that Hossam al Gheriany, the head of the body that drafted the constitution, illegally granted permits to tens of thousands of members of Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Brotherhood, to enter polling stations.
According to the Front, balloting had been "marred by irregularities and violations." Islamic leaders violated the law by using Friday sermons to urge voters to approve the charter, it said, adding that monitors had not been allowed in some polling stations, and judges were absent in all while some fake judges had been sent.
The Front has said it will "not recognize any unofficial result," and wait until the formal tally after next Saturday's second and final round of voting. The protests, it said, are “to defend their freedoms, prevent fraud and reject the draft constitution."
Political groups participating in the marches include the Free Egyptians Party, the Wafd Party, the Constitution Party, the Democratic Egyptian Party, the Tagammu Party and the April 6 Youth Movement, along with the Popular Current.
The constituent assembly finalized the draft hurriedly, soon after President Morsi decreed that all his decisions were beyond judicial review, apparently to prevent the country’s apex court from dissolving the assembly. After the finalization of the draft and the announcement of the date for the referendum, Morsi annulled the decree.
Egyptian churches announced their withdrawal from the body responsible for drafting the charter, saying the document was not representative of the plural identity of the country.
The draft constitution states that "the principles of Shari'a" will be the basis for law – though Christians and Jews will have their own civil laws. It mandates the State to work towards Arabization of sciences and knowledge, and provides for a blasphemy law. It also calls for the creation of a body that would regulate endowments, keeping the room open for bringing even the church under it.