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Egyptians Ready to Vote on Constitution

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TEHRAN, March 19 (ICANA) – A military-amended constitution has been formed and 45 million Egyptians are eligible to take part in the upcoming vote. Do the people of Egypt, however, want a 'brand new' constitution right now?
Saturday, March 19, 2011 11:14:40 PM
Egyptians Ready to Vote on Constitution

Press TV talks with Kamal Helbawy, former member of Muslim Brotherhood in London about the implications of Egyptians voting 'yes' and voting 'no' to an amended constitution put forward by their country's military.

Q: First of all I'd like to get your reaction to this referendum. Do you think these amendments will be good for the country?

Kamal Helbawy: Yes, temporarily - it should be good at the present time. What is more important is that people will have the choice for the first time and the freedom to say yes or no; this is more important than the content itself. It allows the people to select for the first time in their life without rigged elections. So it is good for the people, yes, it is good for the country - Until we get a newly moderated modernized and complete constitution.

Q: I understand that the Muslim Brotherhood is backing this referendum and these amendments - Why is that?

Kamal Helbawy: There are many achievements in these amendments. One of them is that there will be no president for life; a president will work in office for a term of 4 years. That is one of the most important points. Secondly, there is no inheritance of leadership; thirdly, political parties can nominate anyone to run for the election, even someone who is not a member of any political party can nominate themselves for election. There are many benefits in this constitution.

Q: We know that the Muslim Brotherhood has received a lot of concession from the Council for the Armed forces of Egypt; a lot of political prisoners that were affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood were released. Do you think this is a step in the right direction?

Kamal Helbawy: It is not only the Muslim Brotherhood [members] who were released from prison, but even the jihadists, who were accused of killing and assassinating Sadat, were also released. It means this is in the right direction to release the people. Also, the demonstration of state security is very important to put Mubarak who is waiting for trial for corruption; putting the Minister of Interior in prison with his people is also a very important step - These are some of the many good points that should be taken into consideration. But I would say that this is not sufficient, but of temporary acceptance.

Q: I'll name a few individuals and parties that want the people to vote ”No” for this amendment to the constitution: The Revolution Youth coalition; El Baradei's campaign; Amr Moussa's campaign, El Badrawi the vice president of the constitutional court, also the new WAP party as well as the Sixth of April movement - all of these movements, parties and figures are against this referendum; they don't want the amendments to the constitution, they want a transitional government into a civilian government and a new constitution. What do you make of that?

Kamal Helbawy: On the contrary, those who say “No” they don't need a civilian government; they would be supporting a military continuity in power for a longer period. But if you say 'yes' to this constitution amendment, then you are cutting down the period of the Supreme Military Council to six months only. And then there will be a parliamentarian, presidential election and then the constitution can be done in full.

So people, some of them may not be able to understand, they want good for society, and as I said before the most important thing is that everyone in Egypt will say yes or no. And the participation of people in the election will be high. Earlier, people did not go because they knew it was rigged and false, but now people know that when they vote, whether yes or no, it will be an acceptable reflection of a result.

Q: Can the army be trusted even if the people vote ”Yes” for the amendment to the constitution? Because the army has not held Hosni Mubarak accountable - They've frozen his assets, but no arrest warrants have been issued.


Kamal Helbawy: He is prevented to travel from the country. The army stood against the counter revolution and they did not behave like Libyan soldiers in the army or like Yemeni army soldiers, they protected the revolution. We trust them as far as they understand temporarily revolutionary demands are implemented.

Q: One of the demands of the protesters at Tahrir Square was for Mubarak to face justice for the bloodshed and torture and repression of people that he has carried throughout his presidency. Why isn't the army taking a step against that?

Kamal Helbawy: Some of the accusations are against the Minister of Interior and he is responsible because he is the one who gave the orders to the officers to shoot civilians in the Tahrir Square. When or if the Minister says it is not him, but Mubarak, then they will bring charges against Mubarak - I hope so.

Q: If the people vote “No” what's going to happen next as the council has not given any other alternative?

Kamal Helbawy: They will extend the period to which the military are in power and this, to me, would be unfortunate.

Q: The media is not being allowed to report openly on this referendum, which starts Friday morning and until Saturday night. Do you agree with that move?

Kamal Helbawy: As long as there is enough time for all people to vote yes or no. Avoiding propaganda, there is not much benefit running publicity up to the last minute. It would also depend on whether this is applied to all people and not just one section of the people. So it is acceptable since it is for all the people and they give them the choice to say yes or no.

Q: An analysis coming out of the Western media is that if the people vote “No” what will happen is that the Muslim Brotherhood and the National Democratic Party will have a lot of power as far as any elections go if they are held quickly.

Kamal Helbawy: I don't think the Democratic Party has a good reputation anymore, but the Muslim Brotherhood has retained a good reputation, but they are not heading to run for elections for the presidency; they are in not in favor of getting power for themselves, they want the country to be ruled according to good criteria and government, that's all.

Q: As Egyptians prepare to vote in this election do you see any problems arising or do you think the process will be peaceful and go smoothly?

Kamal Helbawy: It will be very peaceful and will go smoothly. In very few places there may be some conflict; in general though it will be peaceful for the first time in any election.

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