Egyptians take quarrel over charter to the polls

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Another female voter in Alexandria, 22-year-old English teacher Yomna Hesham, said she was voting ‘no’ because the draft is “vague” and ignores women’s rights.

“I don’t know why we have become so divided … Now no one wants to look in the other’s face,” said Hesham, who also wears the hijab, after voting. “This will not end well either way. It is so sad that we have come to this.”

Egypt’s latest crisis began when Morsi issued a decree on Nov. 22 giving himself and the assembly writing the draft immunity from judicial oversight so the document could be finalized before an expected court ruling dissolving the panel.

On Nov. 30, the document was passed by an assembly composed mostly of Islamists, in a marathon session despite a walkout by secular activists and Christians from the 100-member panel.

The schism caused by the crisis was on display when a powerful member of the Brotherhood, Khairat el-Shater, went a Cairo polling center to vote. Women standing in line yelled insults at him and his group, calling him a dog and a liar. El-Shater was the Brotherhood’s first choice for a presidential candidate but a Mubarak-era conviction disqualified him, allowing Morsi to take his place.

In Alexandria, a group of women complained that a judge with suspected Brotherhood links intentionally stalled the process to prevent them from voting by taking long breaks to eat, pray and talk on the phone. Angry and frustrated, the women blocked the street outside the polling center.

Cairo businesswoman Olivia Ghita also criticized the constitution as being tailored for the Brotherhood.

“At one point in our history, Cleopatra, a woman, ruled Egypt. Now you have a constitution that makes women not even second-class but third-class citizens,” said Ghita.

If the constitution is approved by a simple majority of voters, the Islamists empowered when Mubarak was ousted would likely gain more clout. The upper house of parliament, dominated by Islamists, would be given the authority to legislate until a new parliament is elected.

If it is defeated, elections would be held within three months for a new panel to write a new constitution. In the meantime, legislative powers would remain with Morsi.

Associated Press reporters Sarah El Deeb in Alexandria and Aya Batrawy in Cairo contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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