Egyptians say Yes to Newly Drafted Constitution and a Lot More…
By Mounir Bishay
On the 14th and 15th of January 2014, the people of Egypt voted in a referendum for a new Constitution to replace the pro-Brotherhood Constitution of 2012. The new Constitution was approved by unprecedented majority of 98.1%, 19.1 million out of 20.6 said yes, while only 331 thousands (1.9%) said no. On the other hand, the Brotherhood Constitution of 2012 was approved by only 62% and was marred by reports of vote fraud.
Though valid, the new constitution's high approval margin could raise doubts in the minds of some people in the West. They are not accustomed to seeing political issue votes reflect anything near unanimity. It is commonly understood in the West that a sign of a healthy democracy is diversity of opinion.
However, one must consider the Egyptian's state of mind as they cast their ballots.
The most common emotion expressed by the voting public was intense anger against the Muslim Brotherhood for the injustices they perpetrated during their one year rule that ended six months ago. This translated into a determination to wipe out everything and anything that had the slightest scent of the Brotherhood's rule of Egypt.
This enough is enough attitude was expressed by normally sweet tempered citizens. Examples of those who voted to bring about change were a crippled man who crawled to the ballot place on his hands and knees. Another was a man who arrived at the polls carrying his life support oxygen cylinder, and a 124-year-old lady who slipped her ballot into the box with a vindictive smile of satisfaction.
The referendum wasn't only a yes to drafting a new Constitution. It was also a yes about changing policy on many other important issues as well. Yes to the Constitution
Although the new Constitution was by no means perfect, it was far superior to the Brotherhood's Constitution of 2012. There were many Constitutional issues that had appearance of one-sidedness due to the unbridgeable gap between opposing parties. In recognition of this, all parties agreed that a yes vote was the best way to advance the nation from under the Brotherhood predicament and towards building a new Egypt. All took comfort that the Constitution could be perfected at a later date. Yes to the Revolution
On June 30th, 2013, over 30 million Egyptians took to the streets demanding the ousting of President Morsy.
The Army sided with their sentiments and supported the people of Egypt. This caused national and international uproars. Some people rejected the revolution label and claimed it was actually a military coup. These supporters of Brotherhood asserted that Morsy was the legitimately elected president, even though many times their number insisted on voting him out of the presidency. The yes vote to this referendum added evidence that the June 30th, 2013 demonstrations were in fact symptomatic of an authentic revolution. It represented the will of the people of Egypt rather than that of a military coup. Yes to General Al Sisi
The role that General Al Sisi played in executing the will of the people of Egypt turned him into a national hero. Most Egyptians think that he is the only person capable of leading Egypt during this pivotal period in her history.
There have been several attempts to draft him as the next president of Egypt. However, General Al Sisi was hesitant to accept the job for fear it might strengthen the notion that he ousted Morsy merely to gain his presidency. Now, with 98.1% saying yes, they are in effect saying that the people of Egypt are demanding that Al Sisi become their next president. Yes to Egypt
The millions who approved the Constitution, in essence approved an Egypt without the Muslim Brotherhood. Their yes vote validated the fact that Egypt is a unique country that has the distinction of a long history being the fountainhead for other great civilizations. It proved that Egyptians would not ever permit the will of an outlawed group to sidetrack or to drive their nation backwards. Yes to the Copts
Voting yes to the Constitution was a vote for a pluralist Egypt, of which the Coptic people are a vital and important part. The Copts of Egypt were undisputable elements in the pre-Mubarak revolution as well as the revolution that ousted Morsy.
The Brotherhood acknowledged the Copts’ role and conducted a violent campaign destroying over 80 churches in a single day. This was meant to punish the Copts for their anti-Brotherhood stance. It was also seen as an attempt to drag the Copts into a sectarian strife leading Egypt to unrest that would help get the Brotherhood back into power.
The Copts were smart enough not to fall for such obvious trickery. Their patriotism and loyalty to their country earned them full admiration of all Egyptians. A new era of inclusion of the Copts is starting to take shape. This was displayed when, for the first time in Egyptian history, the president of Egypt visited the Coptic Pope to issue him and all Copts Christmas greetings.
For some time, Egypt has been going through a gloomy period where things seemed to be heading backward. Now, with a new Constitution, there is a sense of hope that encompasses the entire nation.
Once again, Egypt appears to be headed in the right direction to see the hoped for promises to her people fulfilled. Mounir Bishay is a Coptic and human rights activist. He is the head of the Los Angles based Christian Copts of California.