by Marc Burleigh
by Marc Burleigh
CAIRO, Dec 25, 2012 (AFP)
Authorities in Egypt are to release official results on Tuesday of a constitutional referendum that the ruling Islamists say they have already won, but which the opposition alleges was marred by fraud.
The numbers, to be given out by the electoral commission in a news conference scheduled for 7:00 pm (1700 GMT), are unlikely to resolve the country’s political crisis.
The opposition National Salvation Front has already vowed that “the referendum is not the end of the road”.
Weeks of sometimes violent protests have challenged the authority of President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist from the resurgent Muslim Brotherhood who has been in power for six months.
Egypt’s economy is struggling with the political uncertainty that has prevailed ever since the revolution in early 2011 that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Rating agency Standard and Poor’s on Monday downgraded Egypt’s longterm credit rating one notch to ‘B-‘, citing “elevated” tensions and political rivalry that show no signs of abating.
It and other observers fear the country is risking a collapse of its currency, having burnt through more than half of its foreign reserves since Mubarak’s overthrow.
Less than $15 billion remain, and the International Monetary Fund has put on hold a $4.8 billion loan Egypt needs to shore up its tattered finances.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood argues that the new constitution it and fellow Islamists helped draft put to voters in a staggered referendum on December 15 and 22 will usher in a period of stability.
It says its unofficial tally shows 64 percent of voters backed it.
But the opposition, a broad collection of leftwing, Christian, liberal and secular forces, has fought it every step of the way.
It contends the charter will undermine human rights and open a path to introducing sharia strict Islamic law.
The opposition claims polling fraud skewed the result, and stresses that just 16 million of Egypt’s 51 million eligible voters took part — many of them from the under-educated poorer classes — raising questions of legitimacy.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace prize laureate and former chief of the UN atomic energy agency who heads the National Salvation Front, admitted to the US network PBS on Monday that the referendum would be adopted.
“It is going to pass, but it’s a really sad day in my view for Egypt, because it is going to institutionalise instability,” he said.
The new charter should be treated as “an interim one” until another is written up on the basis of consensus, he said.
“So far, Mr Morsi has been not reaching out to the rest of the country. And he needs to do that, because this is where the reservoir of the qualified people who can jump-start the economy,” he said.
Attention is now turning to legislative elections Egypt will have to hold before the end of February, if the new constitution is declared adopted.