In a highly controversial referendum, Egyptians are being asked to head to the polls to vote on “a new Constitution” and play the numbers game once again. The last “yes or no” vote was in March 2011 on a constitutional amendment under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which was then at the helm of the country. It established the image of majority support for political Islam. So much has transpired since. It would be difficult to imagine a similar outcome. Friday saw massive calls against the referendum and the Constitution. The opposition continues to appeal to the president to call the vote off. The escalation threatens a turn of events and raises fears of possible violent confrontations. Ahead of the referendum, planned over two days one week apart, expectations for a majority “no” vote this time are on the increase.
In the span of the last 10 days alone leading up to this critical voting process, the almost hourly developments on all fronts have been overwhelming but, more significantly, the newfound ability of the opposition to unite and actually mobilize has been unprecedented, gradually changing the scene. On Tuesday Dec. 4, the sea of Egyptians flooding the Presidential Palace and its environs changed the rules of the game forever. It took a few more days of massive protests all over the country and, regrettably, more violence and bloodshed for that new reality to sink in on the international scene, too. For the many who had hoped President Mohamed Mursi would deliver, disappointment quickly gave way to distrust at the direction being followed. His confused responses to the appeal of so many segments of Egyptian society and the apparent weak statesmanship displayed in his decisions over the past few weeks threatens his already frail legitimacy. A disappointing speech to the nation did little to change the deteriorating trust. Amid increasing anger, a unified opposition that seems to outnumber the ruling group while threatening to escalate actions into civil disobedience and a major fallout with the judiciary, in addition to his own supporters besieging the capital’s Media City and the Supreme Constitutional Court, President Mursi and his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood continue to ignore all developments and are heeding no appeals for a postponement. Egyptians abroad have already begun the process.
Egypt is not in turmoil over religion or faith in the divine. Much of the recent events have served to seriously dent political Islamists’ claim to possess a monopoly over faith and God. For most Egyptian, whether Muslims or Christians, the issue is a power struggle, and if the seemingly powerful can no longer control the numbers, then the numbers will control the power. More true believers, this time not just in God, but also in their fight for a free and just Egypt, pray for the well-being of their beloved country. Today, the mood and understanding is very different. A frantic mobilization and calls to protest the Constitution and the referendum in the streets all over the country marked the last Friday before the vote. Beyond any doubt, and surpassing any imagination, Egyptians are changing again. Today (Saturday) is yet another of many opportunities to show their true colors in the fifth big voting day in less than two years. The process and outcome will once again shape the immediate future of a people and a country in revolution.
Hala Kholy is a columnist at the Hurriyet Daily News, where this article was published on Dec. 15, 2012.