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Egypt: Constitutional referendum to take place in mid-January - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Younes Makhioun (R), the head of the Al-Nour Party, listens to party spokesman Nader Bakkar during a news conference about the constitution in Cairo on December 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Younes Makhioun (R), the head of the Al-Nour Party, listens to party spokesman Nader Bakkar during a news conference about the constitution in Cairo on December 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s constitutional referendum is set to take place in mid-January, an Egyptian minister announced on Monday as political parties launched media campaigns for and against the contentious final draft.

In an interview with Egyptian CBC TV, Hany Mahmoud, the Minister of Administrative Development, confirmed that the referendum is set to take place over two days.

Asked about the possible timing of the vote, he said: “We are talking about mid-January.”

The announcement is intended to reduce public fears over the progress of Egypt’s transitional roadmap, following media reports that interim President Adly Mansour was unhappy over the final draft of the constitution that had been submitted to him and was considering sending it back to the 50-member constitution-drafting panel for amendment.

The latest controversy over the draft constitution comes as Egyptian political forces and groups contemplate the forthcoming constitutional referendum, an important milestone in Egypt’s political transition.

Last week, Salafist Al-Nour Party leader Younes Makhioun announced that the party intends to call on supporters to vote “yes” on the draft constitution “even though the constitution includes articles that the party does not agree with.”

He added that a “yes” vote is in the interests of all Egyptians, expressing his desire for development and stability.

Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, the Al-Nour Party leader said: “It is impossible for each and every faction to achieve everything that it wants.”

“Everything has its positives and negatives, and we have to distinguish between what we wish for, and what is possible and available,” he added.

The Salafist Al-Nour Party stance comes despite its failure to defend the presence of articles detailing the role and influence of Islamic Shari’a law. This included the removal of controversial Article 219 of the 2012 constitution, which gave free reign to include a broad interpretation of Islamic Shari’a law in national legislation.

The Salafist acceptance of the new constitution is seen as a severe blow to the Anti-Coup Alliance, which supports ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi. Mursi’s supporters have strongly rejected the entire transitional process, and continue to consider the deposed president as Egypt’s sole legitimate leader.

In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, the left-wing Tagammu Party Secretary-General Magdi Sharabeya affirmed that his party will call on supporters to vote “yes” on the constitution, despite his party’s previous criticisms of the final document.

Sharabeya confirmed that the umbrella group will vote “yes” on the new constitution and take part in the forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections as part of the same list.

He said: “Our position in the Tagammu party is to support this constitution. There are some articles that we do not like, but it is a constitution for all Egyptians, uniting all factions.”

“Our biggest problem with the constitution is over the representation of farmers and workers in parliament, who had enjoyed 50 percent of representation during the era of late President Gamal Abdel Nasser.”

Tagammu is part of the anti-Mursi National Salvation Front coalition.

In other news, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Mohamed Badie appeared in court on Monday for the first time since his August arrest. Badie, along with other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, is facing charges of inciting violence and murder in relation to the deaths of eight anti-Brotherhood protesters outside the group’s headquarters in Cairo.

A southern Cairo court has also ordered the release of former Brotherhood Guide Mehdi Akef on charges of insulting the judiciary, and adjourned his trial until February 11. Akef will face a separate trial on charges of inciting violence.