Legal oversight was insufficient: secularists

Official results of Egypt’s referendum where votes were cast on a controversial constitutional draft are expected on Tuesday—a landmark moment that could frame afresh the ongoing post-Mubarak contest for political space between the country’s Islamists and secularists.

With Egypt’s election commission declaring that the results would be out on Tuesday, there is much anticipation on whether the official tally will match the unofficial results that suggest that the draft national charter has been approved by nearly 64 per cent of the voters. While the margin is impressive, critics question the legitimacy of the poll as only 30 per cent of the electorateparticipated in voting.

Polling for fresh parliamentary elections will be held within two months, provided the constitution is approved. Till then, the Islamist controlled Shoura council--the upper chamber-- will assume legislative powers.

The state-run news agency MENA is reporting that members of the election commission are reviewing complaints about specific violations in the conduct of the two stage referendum. Polling culminated on December 22, a week after the first round was held.

On Sunday, the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) had cited “fraud and violations” in the conduct of the poll. It doubted the fairness of the vote, claiming that a number of polling stations opened late, and Islamists had tried to influence voters during balloting.

Besides, the secularists allege that legal oversight during voting was insufficient as a number of judges, miffed by an earlier decree that has armed President Mohamed Morsy with sweeping powers, had decided to boycott the referendum process.

Amr Hamzawy, the NSF spokesman said at a news conference that the front would ask “the commission to investigate the irregularities before announcing official results". However, some analysts say that it was doubtful whether NSF would contest the results vigorously enough, even if its appeals were turned down.

Contrary to the perception of the secularists, Muslim Brotherhood—the parent organisation of President Morsy-- has rebutted charges about the fairness of the poll. On its website, the Brotherhood claimed that cadres of its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) had ascertained that “voting and counting were completed under full judicial supervision and monitoring of human rights organisations, with full local and international media cover”.

Nevertheless, anticipating stiff opposition from its rivals in the future, the FJP has made a fresh attempt to reach out to the liberal camp. On Sunday, the party invited the NSF for “an unconditional comprehensive dialogue over how to approach Egypt’s problems in the coming months”. FJP member Mohamed al-Beltagy was quoted as saying that “the Muslim Brotherhood and NSF will find consensus in the coming months, especially pertaining to certain constitutional amendments”.

Election commission members said that they are about to aggregate results from the first and the second day of voting, including votes of Egyptians who have been living abroad.

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