Middle East

Egypt voices: Constitutional referendum

Many Egyptians say they plan to cast a ballot for the first time in their lives as a referendum on changes to the constitution takes place on Saturday, 19 March.

Yet, society is sharply divided over the changes, which many prominent supporters of the 25 January revolution, say do not go far enough. The Supreme Military Council, that rules Egypt, is keen to press ahead with reforms so that it can stick to its timetable of holding parliamentary and presidential elections within six months. Egyptians who joined the anti-government protests in Tahrir Square explain which way they have decided to vote.

Nayra Ijjeh, education consultant

I will be voting "no" because I think the legitimacy of the constitution collapsed the day [President Hosni] Mubarak left. Trying to work around a constitution that no longer exists is not a good idea. I think we should have a short, transitional constitution, something that regulates the powers of the president. We don't need more than 200 articles, 90% of which are no longer valid, and are actually contradictory to those that have been changed. We are heading towards another dictatorship if we go with these amendments only.

Having said all this, of course I do recognise that some people will vote "yes". They have their valid reasons. This is the first time I will turn out to vote and I will respect the result if it is "yes".

We will have to find alternative ways of dealing with it. I am hoping and praying there will be a big turnout. Participation is the most important thing.

I was in Tahrir Square every day until Mubarak left. I was fighting on Facebook as well. This is the first time I have taken part in public politics. There is a huge political debate and people are extremely interested, vocal and articulate. This is a pleasure to hear.

Ahmed Ali Abdul Wahab, engineer for a petrol company

God willing, there will be a "yes" vote for the constitutional changes because we deserve security and stability. If all of us vote "yes", the next day normal life will resume and we will back on the right track. I am praying that all sensible people will vote "yes". I feel that the majority supports these changes.

I was in Tahrir Square, not from the very beginning but from the 28 January. I never voted in an election before because I didn't trust the old regime. This time it will be different. I will definitely go and vote. I will take my sons and my brothers. My brother says he will vote "no" but I won't put pressure on him to vote "yes". This is a democratic process.

I would like to call on all the political and religious leaders in this country to avoid putting pressure on people by telling them how to vote. There are simple people who love them and would be guided by them. However this is a democratic process and everyone has to think for themselves.

It is important to remember that we made a revolution before and we can make one every day. Tahrir Square is still there. If things go wrong and we want to stop them, we can always gather and go back.

Nur Ayman, political activist, son of opposition leader, Ayman Nur

I'll be voting "no" because after 40 years with the same constitution it is clear it has failed to achieve anything. After bringing down a dictator of 30 years, after successfully starting a revolution, the least we can do is to establish a new constitution. It would be a good, solid foundation for long-term development.

Legally, politically and symbolically speaking, it will make a difference if we say "no". It proves to the population and the military that we will not settle for less than a whole new constitution. The problem is not about the time it will take to write one, because law professors and politicians and political parties have been writing drafts for many years. The problem is with the implementation, which is in the hands of the army.

I am a bit excited that for the first time in Egyptian modern history, voting is taking place in a relatively free and fair environment.

Still it's a two-sided story because many think the vote is too soon because people are not fully aware of what these amendments mean.


I have never voted in any election before but I will definitely go to vote "yes" this time. That's because these changes are exactly what we need and what we have been calling for since the start of the revolution. I can't say that they go far enough, but they are sufficient for now. We have other demands but for me this is a good beginning.

This process will help create more trust for people. It shows there will be more democracy and more freedom.

I was in Tahrir Square from the 25 January. We were all calling to end the state of emergency and for political reforms. The constitutional reforms will help achieve this. I am surprised that the 25t January Youth Coalition is against the changes because they were supporting precisely these ideals at the outset. I believe that overall there will be a "yes" vote.

Everyone has got their own vote and opinion. I don't know how my family and friends will vote but I guess they will be with me. We must take this step forward.

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