Egypt's referendum a vote on Morsi as well as the constitution (+video)
As Egyptians vote today in a referendum on a controversial draft constitution, the debate is dominated by President Mohamed Morsi's actions, not the document.
Egyptians made yet another trip to the polls today to vote on a controversial constitution that has deeply polarized the nation, as the opposition warned of fraud.Skip to next paragraph
For many, it was not just a vote on the merits of the document, but a judgment on the performance of President Mohamed Morsi, whose recent decisions to consolidate his power and rush the constitution to a vote ignited public anger and widespread protests.
But a fear that rejecting the draft constitution would prolong the instability that has roiled Egypt overshadowed the burgeoning frustration with the president and opposition to the constitution.
"Egyptians will say yes, but in their hearts they want to say no," says Youssef Amin as he waits outside a polling center in Matareya, a working-class district on the northern edge of Cairo.
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Since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February 2011, many Egyptians have grown weary of the sustained political instability and unrest on the streets that has kept Egypt's economy from recovering.
Mr. Amin works in the tourism industry, which has been hit hard as protests and violence dissuade tourists from visiting. He opposes the constitution, but says he will vote for it anyway because he's afraid that defeating it would lead to even more instability.
"If I say no, it might take four years to get another constitution," he says. "We will go on and on and on like this."
A referendum on Morsi
Egyptians waited to cast their ballots in long lines in many parts of the capital today. Nine other governates also voted today, while the rest of the 27 will vote on Dec. 22. Morsi divided the voting into two rounds, likely in an effort to deal with a shortage of judges willing to oversee the vote.
Their supervision is required by Egyptian law, but in protest of Morsi’s recent move to sideline the judiciary, thousands of judges refused to monitor the vote.
Egypt's main opposition coalition accused the Brotherhood of "attempted vote rigging" in a statement released today, and said it had documented multiple instances of irregularities, including the absence of judges to monitor the voting.
Last month, Morsi declared himself and the constitution-writing committee off limits to challenges from the judiciary. He also sacked the public prosecutor, an executive interference in the judiciary that was prohibited by the old constitution, and appointed a new prosecutor.
He rescinded parts of his controversial decree last week, declaring that he no longer considered his actions immune from judicial review. But that was after he called a quick referendum on the constitution his party members rushed to finish, moving ahead without input from the non-Islamist members of the committee who had resigned in the weeks before, claiming their views were ignored.
Anger spills out
Anger at Morsi spilled out of voters in Matareya, a tired and shabby neighborhood. They are not the elite liberals that the president's supporters sometimes portray the opposition as being in an attempt to cast Morsi's critics as out of sync with the mainstream.
"Morsi says one thing and then does the exact opposite," says taxi driver Yehia Ibrahim, who lives in the neighborhood and was waiting in line at the polls. "You see this mess Egypt is in? What has he done to fix it? Nothing. He made it worse. He has led us into a very dangerous situation now."
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