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Egyptian opposition to appeal constitutional referendum

The Egyptian opposition on Sunday said it will appeal the referendum that appears to have voted in a new constitution backed by ruling Islamic parties. The opposition has alleged the vote was marred by fraud [Al Jazeera report] and irregularities, while the Muslim Brotherhood [official website], the main supporters of the new constitution, claim the referendum has passed with 64 percent "yes" votes [Reuters report]. Official results have not been released yet and are expected on Monday. The National Salvation Front, the main opposition group, composed of united factions of liberals, socialists and others, had campaigned heavily for the rejection of the referendum. Members of the opposition have stated they will keep up pressure on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi [BBC backgrounder], including the continuation of peaceful protests. The opposition claims that the new constitution seeks to enshrine Islamic rule in Egypt, citing insufficient protection of women and minority groups, as well as empowering Muslim clerics by giving them say in the legislative process.

The draft constitution [text, PDF] is backed by the Islamists and has been extremely controversial. Earlier this month, a coalition of Egyptian rights groups called for a redo [JURIST report] of the first round of the constitutional referendum alleging widespread irregularities [press release], including lack of judicial supervision at the polling places and intentional delays at several women's polling places, rendering them unable to vote. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] has also expressed concern at the rising death toll during the ongoing political chaos in Egypt, saying that Egypt's draft constitution presents serious problems for human rights [JURIST report]. Pillay complained [UN News Centre report] that the draft constitution was passed without the participation of Christian or liberal legislators. Pillay also said that she was concerned about the draft constitution's omission of references to international human rights treaties that Egypt ratified in the past. While Pillay commended the fact that the draft constitution imposes term limits on Morsi and provides some protections for freedom of expression and religion, she noted that these protections were not strong enough.

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