Ashton Voices Support to Egyptians ahead of Constitutional Referendum

European Union (EU) Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement Sunday, two days ahead of Egypt’s constitutional referendum, to express the EU’s support of the Egyptian people in fulfilling the aspirations of the January 2011 revolution.

The statement held that the EU stands by Egypt to achieve dignity, social justice, security, democracy, human rights and a better economy.

“The constitutional process – both before and following the referendum – could offer a chance for a new political dialogue and interaction leading to democratic elections, a fair representation of different political views in the future parliament, accountability for the government and state institutions, and greater security and prosperity for all,” the statement read.

Ashton also condemned the terrorist attacks against Egypt and its people, adding that the EU will continue to offer Egypt full support.

Meanwhile, Ashton also said in the statement she is equally convinced that heavy-handed responses to the present crisis will not help secure Egypt’s future and may seriously hamper freedoms of expression and association.

The statement ended with the EU wishing to see Egypt “as a partner sharing democratic values, respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, and as a neighbour with whom [to] share a common destiny and face together the many challenges of our time. Only confidence in the shared belief that Egypt is for all Egyptians working peacefully for the country’s future can bring about a strong, vibrant and sustainable democracy and economy.”

Egypt has seen an escalation in attacks against police and military targets, initially concentrated in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, near the border with Israel and the Gaza Strip, but recently spilling over into other areas of the country.

A suicide bomb attack in December killed 16 people in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, north of Cairo.

This week’s referendum on the amended constitution, which will take place on January 14-15, marks the first time Egyptians head to the polls since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013, while also marking the first step in the implementation of the roadmap announced by Egypt’s Army Chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on the same day.

It is also the sixth time Egyptians go to the polls since they rose up against the autocratic regime of former president Hosni Mubarak on 25 January 2011, forcing him out of office 18 days later.

Egyptian voters will be asked to cast Yes or No votes on the new 247-article constitution. Led by Amr Moussa, Egypt’s former high-profile foreign minister and ex-secretary-general of the Arab League, the 50-Member Committee tasked with amending the 2012 constitution finalised a new draft on 1 December 2013. It then passed the charter to Interim President Adly Mansour 3 December.

Source: Ahram Online

10% turnout so far by expats in Egypt referendum

Around 64,000 expatriates have voted in the constitution referendum – ten percent of those eligible – with just one day left, the election committee announced on Saturday.

About 2.7 million Egyptians live abroad, according to the International Organisation for Migration, but other estimates put the figure at as many as 7-8 million.

A referendum at home is scheduled for 14-15 January.

The voting process for expats, which is being monitored by a foreign ministry panel, was mostly going ahead smoothly, with minimal reported attempts to hinder the vote, the panel added.

Expats won the right to cast votes in elections at Egyptian embassies and consulates following the January 2011 uprising.

The number of Egyptian expats who are eligible to vote is 681,346 across 161 countries, with Saudi Arabia hosting the highest number – around 45 percent of the total.

Voting for expats started on 8 January and is due to end on Sunday 12 January.

The referendum is the first landmark in a transition roadmap drawn up after the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July amid massive protests against his year-long rule.

Parliamentary and presidential elections are scheduled to follow by mid-2014.

The 2012 Islamist-drafted constitution was suspended following Morsi’s ouster in July 2013.

Around 40 percent of registered expats voted in the 2012 constitution referendum, with more than 63 percent voting in favour of the charter.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporting National Alliance to Support Legitimacy are calling on Egyptians to boycott the 2014 referendum.

Source: Ahram Online