Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour announced on Saturday that a public referendum on Egypt’s new constitution will take place on January 14 and 15.
The referendum is the first major milestone in Egypt’s transitional political roadmap. But questions remain about the roadmap’s forthcoming steps, particularly whether parliamentary or presidential elections will take place first.
The draft constitution leaves the decision in the hands of the interim president, whereas the initial political roadmap drawn up by Egypt’s military stipulates that parliamentary elections should precede presidential ones.
Addressing the Egyptian public from Ittihadiya Palace, the interim president called on all Egyptians to vote in the referendum, describing the draft constitution as “a good start on which to build the institutions of a democratic and modern state.”
“This is truly a historic moment, a defining moment in our modern history,” Mansour said. He acknowledged that the constitution “has not reached the degree of perfection . . . but it is a historically important breakthrough for the nation.”
The interim president called on opponents of his rule to “give up on their stubbornness . . . [and] stop following a mirage.”
“Let this constitution be a word of justice, that unites and does not divide,” Mansour added.
Saturday’s announcement that the referendum will be held in mid-January comes following media reports that the interim president, a well-respected constitutional scholar, had been concerned about “mistakes” in the draft and was considering sending it back to the 50-member constitution-drafting committee for amendment.
This latest announcement regarding Egypt’s transitional roadmap comes as competition ahead of next year’s presidential election heats up. Speculation is rife that popular Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi intends to run, with a number of civil groups establishing campaigns calling on Sisi to announce his candidacy.
A leaked audio recording of Sisi appeared to confirm his presidential ambitions this week. In an off-the-record interview reportedly conducted earlier this year, Sisi said that he had dreamed of meeting former president Anwar Sadat and confided in him that “I also know that I will be president of the republic.”
While the recording has yet to be publicly confirmed, they have spread widely throughout the Egyptian media, providing both support and dismay among Egyptians.
Although interim president Adly Mansour was quoted by a Kuwaiti newspaper as saying that he would not run in the forthcoming presidential elections, many senior Egyptian politicians have already announced their intentions to compete. Nasserite Hamdeen Sabbahi, who came third in the last presidential elections, has spoken of his desire to run again, as has former Egyptian Army Chief of Staff Sami Anan and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh.
Well-known Egyptian lawyer Mona Zulficar, a member of Egypt’s 50-member constitution drafting panel, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The constitution project opened the door for the interim president to choose which election takes place first, despite the political roadmap saying that parliamentary elections should precede presidential ones.”
“Violating the terms of the political roadmap will not constitute a legal crisis after public approval of the constitution, because this approval will be applied to everything that came before,” she said.
Zulficar said that she supported presidential elections taking place first. “The election of a new president is the quickest path towards stability . . . and if we return to the demands of the Tamarod campaign, they were calling for Mursi’s ouster and the holding of early presidential elections,” she said.
“The Egyptians today want a president who has the ability to reunify everything, but parliamentary elections will only serve to incite political feuds and rivalries,” Zulficar added.