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First Round of Voting in Egypt Affirms Controversial Draft Constitution

Despite continuing protests by opposition groups, the first half of Egypt’s referendum on a new draft constitution won ratification by 57% in 10 governorates or districts this past Saturday. The remaining regional areas are expected to fully ratify the draft constitution this coming Tuesday. While some members of the opposition are claiming that there have been “irregularities and violations” in the voting process, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has deployed 120,000 soldiers to keep polling stations open. If Morsi wins the vote, he will strengthen his grip on power despite dire economic conditions and strong criticisms from a wide swath of Egyptian society.

The main opposition centered under the umbrella group the NSF (The National Salvation Front) coordinated by Mohamed El Baradei, has called for more mass protests in the build up to the final vote on Tuesday. Clashes between pro and anti Morsi coalitions over the last three weeks have already claimed ten lives and resulted in over a thousand injuries. NSF spokesperson Hussein Abdel Ghany stated with regard to the vote, “We confused our people today…This was a mistake. We have to admit it.”

Meanwhile, Morsi has decided not to accept a $4.8 billion IMF loan. He is expected to renew negotiations for these loans next year to offset a massive economic down turn in Egypt. Direct foreign investment has dropped from $2.9 billion in the first quarter of 2011 to $219 million in the first quarter of 2012. Morsi has also decided to delay accepting an additional $5 billion from the EU and another $2.7 billion from the US.

Many fear the constitution, which was drafted in a hasty all-night session, represents a return to the dictatorial policies of the Mubarak era, and solidifies many anti-women policies from the influential Muslim Brotherhood.

GUEST: Ashraf Khalil, author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation, contributor to Time