CAIRO, Dec 14, 2012 (AFP) -
CAIRO, Dec 14, 2012 (AFP) –
Egypt’s 51 million voters are being called to vote on the next two Saturdays in a referendum on a draft constitution backed by Islamists, including President Mohamed Morsi, but denounced by the secular opposition.
Polls will open at 8:00am (0600 GMT) on Saturday and are scheduled to close at 7:00pm (1700 GMT) in Cairo, Alexandria and eight other governorates. The other half of the country is set to vote a week later, on December 22.
Egypt’s army has temporarily been given police powers to help ensure security until the final results of the referendum are known. A total 120,000 soldiers will be supporting the 130,000 police deployed.
Morsi’s camp argues the draft constitution, drafted by an Islamist-dominated panel, is needed to complete the transition from the 30-year regime of Hosni Mubarak, the leader toppled in Egypt’s revolution early last year.
The opposition says the constitution is poorly crafted in a way to possibly usher in sharia-style law (strict Islamic law), and has denounced the way the referendum has been rammed through with no consensus.
Many of Egypt’s judges have said they will not oversee the vote, as is required under the law to ensure it is legitimate.
Here are key points of the controversial draft constitution:
– Islam remains the official religion of the country. The previous formulation saying the “principles of sharia” are the main source of legislation is maintained. However, these principles are broadened to include Sunni Muslim doctrinal interpretations.
– “Freedom of faith is guaranteed” — but only for followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
– The president is limited to ruling for two consecutive four-year terms, instead of indefinitely as under Mubarak.
– The defence minister is chosen by the military, not the president or government. Also, the military’s budget will be decided by a committee dominated by military officers, effectively making it independent of civilian oversight.
– Civilians will not be tried in military courts except in cases where the “crimes are susceptible to harm the armed forces.” The opposition and human rights groups demand that this vaguely defined exception be removed.
– The charter upholds “the equality of citizens under the law without discrimination,” but omits an explicit mention of equality of the sexes.
– Freedom of expression is protected — except when it comes to “insults against physical persons” or “insults towards the prophets.” Some fear those exceptions open the door to censorship.
– The state is the designated protector of “public morals and order.”
– It is forbidden for Egypt to sign international treaties and conventions that go against the constitution. Rights groups criticise the absence of an explicit reference to respect for international human rights conventions.