Why Egyptians Are Voting Away Their Freedoms

The two-day referendum being held in Egypt is effectively a rubber-stamp vote that will guarantee the military-backed regime greater powers

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Eman Helal / AP

An Egyptian woman wearing a T-shirt with a photo of Defense Minister General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi stands outside a polling station on the first day of voting in Egypt's constitutional referendum in Cairo on Jan. 14, 2014

Dozens of men lined the sidewalk outside a school in Cairo’s upper-class Mohandessin neighborhood on Tuesday morning, the first day of voting on Egypt’s new constitution. Soldiers in tan fatigues armed with AK-47s motioned for the men to enter, four or five at a time. Inside the gates, one group of mostly elderly men argued with the army officer in charge. “We can’t find our names on the list!” shouted one man. The officer dialed his cell phone, assuring the man he would find his polling station.

The proposed constitution, drafted under a military-backed government in the months since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi in July, further insulates the police and armed forces from civilian control and could enshrine the military’s power within the Egyptian state for decades. Nearly three years after a popular uprising forced autocrat Hosni Mubarak from power, Egypt’s security state is triumphant once again. Since Morsi’s removal, more than a thousand people have been killed in a government crackdown on supporters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and its allies. Hundreds of others have been jailed, including journalists and leading activists who opposed Mubarak and Morsi. With most of the media backing the current regime, and much of the public either voicing support for the military or simply resigned to the reality of the current political arrangement, the forces of the 2011 revolution are struggling to be heard.

At three separate polling stations on Tuesday, every voter interviewed backed the constitution. “I believe that this constitution is a very good constitution, and this is just to give a message that we don’t want the Muslim Brotherhood. We want a new regime of freedom and democracy,” says Inas Mazen, a 60-year-old doctor, at a women’s polling station in Mohandessin. Egypt’s Elections Committee on Monday reported that 15% of voters had turned out so far, according to the leading news site Ahram Online. Nine people were killed in violence at polling stations as security forces clashed with protesters, and an explosion hit a courthouse in Cairo’s Imbaba district, causing no reported injuries.

(MORE: Egypt’s Military-Backed Rulers Brand Muslim Brotherhood ‘Terrorist’ and Extend Crackdown)

In spite of criticism from rights groups and political dissidents about both the content of the constitution and the integrity of the voting process, the document is expected to be approved by a majority of voters. Recent history suggests voters will choose a concrete constitutional option and the prospect of political stability over the chaos of a no vote. Majorities also voted yes in constitutional referendums in Egypt in 2011 and 2012.

This week’s referendum is also taking place amid government harassment of those opposed to the document. One of the only groups actively urging a no vote, the Strong Egypt Party, suspended its campaign on Sunday after 11 activists were arrested in three separate incidents hanging posters and distributing campaign materials. “It’s a referendum with one choice only, and it’s yes. No is not allowed,” says Strong Egypt Party representative Fekry Nabil. “This process is not free and not fair, and we cannot join it.”

Khaled Mansour, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a leading watchdog group, says the arrests “cast a huge shadow over the integrity of this process.” He adds, “Hanging a poster, expressing a political opinion is not something that’s controversial. It’s bordering on the ridiculous here.”

Driven underground after the government branded it a terrorist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, once a formidable electoral force, called for a boycott of the vote. The proposed constitution was drafted by a 50-member committee appointed in the wake of the military’s removal of Brotherhood-affiliated Morsi in July following huge protests. Morsi’s backers and other opponents of the coup regard the military-backed political process as illegitimate. But the Brotherhood’s current stance is also a role reversal. In late 2012, Morsi’s government alienated other political forces by drafting and then passing a constitution without broad public support.

Concurrent with the crackdown, a massive media campaign is urging Egyptians to approve the new constitution, framing the vote as a revolutionary duty. Banners hang on every major bridge and overpasses in Cairo with slogans like “Yes to the constitution, no to terrorism.” Other ads directly invoke the legacy of the protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and triggered Morsi’s removal in 2013. “Egypt changed on Jan. 25 and was liberated on June 30,” says one radio ad, referring to the dates of the original uprising and then mass demonstrations against Morsi last year. “Go down and complete the journey. Participate in the referendum on the constitution.” On Saturday, armed-forces chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi himself urged the public to vote yes “in force,” and hinted at a possible presidential run himself. Claiming a mandate from the protests against Morsi, the general who led the July coup enjoys a considerable cult of personality, and if he chooses to stand for election, he would be considered the electoral favorite.

Supporting the constitution is a mismatched coalition that includes the conservative Salafist Nour Party, Nasserists and secular probusiness groups like the Free Egyptians Party, which is backed by telecommunications mogul Naguib Sawiris. The constitution’s proponents often dismiss concerns that it places too much power in the hands of the military. “We all feel that Egypt is going through a tough phase in facing terrorism these days,” says Free Egyptians founding member Naguib Abadir. “We need a strong military that will not be compromised in the coming eight years in any way, in order to perform the duties that will be key to the survival of Egypt.”

(MORE: Egypt’s Military-Backed Rulers Brand Muslim Brotherhood ‘Terrorist’ and Extend Crackdown)

While the yes campaign is ubiquitous, the once-ascendant voices of the 2011 uprising have been relegated to the margins. Wael Abbas, a prominent dissident blogger and activist opposes the constitution vigorously, but even his own father, an attorney, planned to vote for it. “The constitution gives godly powers to the military in Egypt. It makes them untouchable,” says Abbas. “I tried to explain as much as possible, but he [Abbas’ father] doesn’t look on the Internet. He only sees one side that is aired on TV.” Propaganda and misinformation often circulate in much of Egypt’s media. “When you turn on a television or you open a newspaper, you enter a fact-free zone,” says Nathan Brown, a professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.

The proposed constitution’s critics point out that the document grants more autonomy to already powerful state institutions, including the military, judiciary and police. The military’s leadership is granted the power to approve choices for Defense Minister for two presidential terms. Continuing a long-standing practice, military courts are given the power to try civilians. A police council is given the right to approve or reject all laws dealing with police. “It will effectively give the Interior Ministry a veto over reforming itself, and it’s not going to do it,” Brown says.

“It’s vendetta time and anyone who crossed them [the Interior Ministry] is in their crosshairs,” he says. “To me, one of the big questions is, Is any kind of political system that comes out of this going to be able to bring that structure under control? — and I’m not sure that there is.”

Among voters interviewed at the polls on Monday, no one was worried about the possibility that the new constitution would entrench the military’s institutional power. Emerging from the voting room in the Mohandessin school, Ashraf Nasif, a 39-year-old employee of a multinational corporation, says, “Yes, the army did help ousting Morsi but, it couldn’t happen without millions of people in the street. The army alone couldn’t do anything without the people.”

282 comments
nadia1
nadia1

US, UK and EU just like to interfere in  other  countries business and to  feel superior. They have their own  hidden agendas and always think that they can do better for the people of these countries.


However, they like oil, natural resources and free passages through canals.  Pure Greediness!


God always protected  Egypt. It was mentioned in the Bible, Qurran and Torah. 


So hands off Egypt and leave Egyptians to decide their own future. They are clever and they know that their army will always protect them.  



MoodMalo
MoodMalo

No wonder the Time doesn't like the result of the referendum. It's easy to understand this stance when I quote what Gen. Hugh Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff  who served under President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, said on October 3rd, 2013,

" Egypt stopped a drive by Obama to destabilize Egypt in 2013. Shelton said Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul

Fatah Sisi, a former intelligence chief, also detected a U.S. plot to support the ruling Muslim Brotherhood amid unprecedented unrest".

It seems that 'The Time' is trying to spread the lies about Egypt and its brave people. Nobody was arrested for just saying No but "the Strong Egypt Party"-mentioned in the filthy article- is another face of the terrorist MB Organization. The leader of this political party"Abo Alfoutouh" a member of the MB was responsible for the death of tens of people in Upper Egypt in the 70th before going to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union, another tool in the American hand.!!!!!!. 


The referendum was transparent and internationally overseen. This Constitution recognizes the majority rights, women rights and handicap rights. Why should I refuse it?!!. To please US and EU?!!. Forget it. 


HenryThoreau
HenryThoreau

Voting away their freedoms?  They get to do that in Egypt?  How about in the US?  Did all of you vote for a foreign born communist spawn of a islam as Dictator?  Where's your vote?  Up your @ss, that's where.  

One person in one branch makes the laws now, and he doesn't give a flyin fk about your "Rights" or opinions.  



NerminElsayed
NerminElsayed

Very good article, but if u live in the mess of egypt then u dont care who is in charge as long as he secures ur daily life. I boycotted this sad joke and i didnt see a point in saying no either, although its the only answer to this chaining constitution. Egypt is a war zone of perspectives.

bondok69
bondok69

After the total elimination of the Iraqi and the Syrian army. And after the destruction of Libya and Sudan. The Egyptian army is the last man standing in the area.  That's why the rich Arab countries are packing the current Egyptian government.  They won't allow Egypt to fall into the hands of Islamic Fundamentalist and terrorist groups.

Haitham Gamal Seada
Haitham Gamal Seada

* What do you expected from a military coup?! A corrupted regime that still needs more. "Morsi" was actually a very weak president. Corrupted army leaders, media figures and business tycoons were able to oust him and out the whole Egyptian revolution. Abhinav Gaur

Said Sabry
Said Sabry

فعلا اختيار واحد. لكنه خطأولن يدوم

marghany
marghany

they were dancing on the blood of others


WessamElsobky
WessamElsobky

Why can't you imagine that the Egyptians do not need foreign tutelage, It is the will of Egyptians Who refused to fascist rule of Muslims Brotherhood, the Egyptians reused selling their borders, identity or land

aliabdallah123
aliabdallah123

Egyptian are intelligent  enough to  study well what happen to Iraq  army  and Libyan army   .Egyptian  know well what they are doing   and know  why journalist    write subject like that    as if he know  what our country want  more than us ha ha ha

Rachid
Rachid

The media washed their brains! 

Jeff Lindstrom
Jeff Lindstrom

Ashraf, best of luck. I have been to Egypt twice and am moving to Cairo in August to teach. Good luck on the future. For both of us.

Mohamed EL-Fayomy
Mohamed EL-Fayomy

You are right, they were dancing on the blood of others and lost their minds and their freedom too , I think u completely forgot Maspero events>

Omar Emara
Omar Emara

people who vote "NO" being arrested

AhmadEweas
AhmadEweas

Not because you can write in English, you represent the Egyptians. the vast majority of Egyptians who don't speak English are boycotting this stupid thing called referendum. those who claim that 30 million took to the streets on 30/6 are wither idiots or blinded. 

in Egypt this is not the end of story, a lot is yet to come ....

Ahmed_Mustafa
Ahmed_Mustafa

Eventhough I did boycott simply because fascits whether islamists or military and their goons both do not work well with me. I never saw such a provoking Title. Why the hell I did not see this with Egypt's Islamists constitution?! it was much more screwed. Hell, what about in US patriot act?! and laws alike.

Any way I became convinced that helping those in need and grass roots movement is the only way to make things right againfighting poverty illiteracy and hunger is my only concern now in order not to be used anymore by those leeches.

JohnFerguson
JohnFerguson

When they look around the region and see the horrible chaos in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and Yemen it is not a surprise that Egyptians are supporting this Constitution.  It can be amended if the Parliament supports changes.

Yasser Imam
Yasser Imam

وادى كمان احا بال Arabic

Ahmed Yousry
Ahmed Yousry

Yes, it is our one choice to the future, because there is no choise except freedom .. Long live Egypt .. Long live Egyptian Military Forces .. Shame on you Time & USA.

Naheda El Khoury
Naheda El Khoury

Egyptians are Free to make their own choices .. Stop spreading Rumors with your big Headlines ... Very misleading ... You and Amanpour !!!!!

Marwan Hamdy
Marwan Hamdy

Stupid stuff .. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah People who are above 45 years ,, they will kiss us YOUTH by such stuipd actions and votes

TomiRoshi
TomiRoshi

I have no idea what I am talking about other than my opinion.  What I observed was a complete failure on the part of Morsi and the MB to embrace a secular Egypt.  They completely underestimated the military and capitalist power to control the country from the top down.  Those with the gold rule been that way since the Pharaohs.    

Maged El-Samra
Maged El-Samra

BS. No one knows on which choice are you marking. Who wants to say no go his own freedom to say no. Stop spreading false statments for the sake of the times' ' reputation

Ehab Mamdouh Ismaiel
Ehab Mamdouh Ismaiel

as Egyptian, we are majorly choosing Yes and ending the regime of muslim brotherhood the terrorist , shame on u

Mo'men Mohamed
Mo'men Mohamed

Ignorance and poverty together can do anything. people in Egypt still don't understand that the Egyptian military is the biggest corrupted authority in the country and it does whatever possible to keep its corruption.

Leyla
Leyla

Egyptians are not "one block" so just the title itself is patronising, racist and misleading. The reality is far more complex. Referendums always go ahead with a yes because those who bother to vote are those who are willing to vote yes, and even amongst those, many have different reasons for doing so, and often legitimate reasons. You are saying this as if there were so many freedoms to begin with? Egyptians are exhausted and the poor especially who have to feed their families have had enough of the turmoil of the past few years.  I may not agree with this constitution or the way it is being used for political interest, but I will never talk of those who support yes in a patronising manner like I know better. The West always knows better of course, right? And while I completely agree that the government is using this referendum for political interest, I also realise that the previous governments did the same. The Muslim Brotherhood said in their referendum that anyway who votes no is against religion and is an infidel, now this current government is saying that anyone who votes no is against the nation and is a traitor. Nothing has changed in that sense. But many Egyptians are aware of this, and have grown tired of trying to fight the system, and so they have accepted the small victories, such as a slightly improved constitution. It is far from ideal, and that is why again I am against it. But I am putting myself in their shoes, rather than talk down on them in a patronising way. Part of this is also a generational fight (as it always has been) as most of those who voted are from older generations. 

AbdulazizAshrey
AbdulazizAshrey

How should a minister of defense our nation's to constitution vote or referendum?!! This was the last time "Mussolini" and "Hitler" or yesterday near Africa in Rwanda and Côte d'Ivoire .. I think we go back to the back by a rocket ... Sorry   by Flying Carpet .hi guys . Where is Aladdin? And Sinbad !!

Sherif Dabes
Sherif Dabes

Also who just think to say no may be now rest in peace :D

Walaa Mohamed Zaki
Walaa Mohamed Zaki

in yesterday celebrations 11 Egyptian killed by the police as they protest against constitution

MarkZ2005
MarkZ2005

Egyptians are going out in masses to vote, they are voting YES for stability, security and better future that they can control.


This is what they want and this is the TRUE democracy not what America wants for their own agenda.


The “American” democracy pushed Morsi down the Egyptian people’s throat; the American ambassador in Egypt was interfering, lobbying and pushing to get the Muslim Brotherhood to govern people not because America loves democracy but to serve their needs.


Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood had no idea and no program to develop Egypt, their only priority was to control the country to govern forever, to do that they planned to destroy all Egyptian institutions including the army, they made allays with all terrorist groups they gave them Sinai and prevented the army of controlling Sinai security. They started hatred complain against Christian to terrorize them and Morsi himself lead a campaign against Shiites that ended up of massacring a Shiites cleric in the street of Cairo.


They rushed their own constitution that discriminates against women and minority, they prevented women of voting and rigged ballot boxes to get it through.


The Egyptian and the army together saw all of that and untied to put an end to it.


Time magazine shame on you to write this article, Egyptian, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrian and many others in the middle east lost trust in America and what its media says.


Ashraf El-Antably
Ashraf El-Antably

In Egypt there a lot of differences among the generations. Due to education levels and most importantly ages .. People who had been raised under opression regimes prefer to live like that because to them they do consider this a "system" ... newer generations are not .. A day will comke soon enough to redirect Egypt to the right course ... It is a matter of time .. not arevolution in history that was able to change everything in short time but with waves and waves of protesters and revoluionary actions things will start changing

Ashraf El-Antably
Ashraf El-Antably

As an Egytian, I want really to thank you for your wishes, Jeff I wish for you the best too

AhmedHamdyKhattab
AhmedHamdyKhattab

Because they are cheated by the emotional speech of weapons :3

aliabdallah123
aliabdallah123

@Rachid   when USA kill more than 500.000  innocent people on Iraq   .and destroy   Iraq  army  and Syrian army and Libyan army  on the name of democracy .and give weapon to  people to fight each other   Egyptian  must  chose  their army  ,Egyptian  are intelligent and understand  the lesson well  

vrome
vrome

When I was a young child, I visited Egypt with my family.  I would like to go back someday to see how it has changed.  From the television news, the people appears to be wealthier than they were in the 1970's.   

vrome
vrome

So you don't like a free press.  I don't like a military dictatorship which takes away freedoms, and kills, tortures and imprisons its own citizens.  Each to our own.

vrome
vrome

@TomiRoshi Capitalilst?  The Egyptian military is the largest landowner, the largest employer, and the largest manufacturer--including making all sorts of things from automobiles to bread.  In the old days we called that communism and it accounts for why Egypt is a poor country strife with corruption. 

vrome
vrome

LOL!  I can't tell if you are being sarcastic.  To end the Muslim Brotherhood, you VOTE them out.  Instead,  a military coup deposed them.  That isn't choosing.

pleasewakeup
pleasewakeup

@Leyla This is the best, most coherent comment, relating to the Egyptian situation, that I've read in a while!

Austing
Austing

@Leyla its up to they people to make their choice but dont forget people give away freedoms to be more comfortable all the time usa has fallen for it as well 

vrome
vrome

LOL, well said.  Coupled with the fact that those who oppose it have been imprisoned or killed, or intimidated from voting, its not really a truly fair election.

Channah
Channah

True.  Egypt is not ready for true democracy.  The people are not educated enough, are not emotionally ready for a change of more freedom, etc.,.  It will take time and must go thru stages.