Egypt’s Judges Club to boycott second round of constitutional referendum

Egypt’s Judges Club to boycott second round of constitutional referendum

Egyptian Administrative State Council’s Judges Club announced on Monday its boycott to oversee the second round of the country’s constitutional referendum scheduled for Dec. 22, Al Arabiya TV reported. 
 
Early December, however, the judges club accepted to oversee the plebiscite scheduled for December 15 but with conditions. 
 
The club stipulated that the government should protect polling committees and public buildings including headquarters of the higher committee supervising the referendum, Hamdy Yassin, head of the club, said. 
 
The government should also work to end the sit-in outside the Supreme Constitutional Court by supporters of President Mohammed Mursi, Yassin added. 
 
Since December 2, some of Mursi supporters were protesting outside the Supreme Constitutional Court fearing that the judges to issue verdicts to dissolve the current Shura Council or the Constituent Assembly that wrote the draft constitution.
 
While the government worked to disperse the sit-in outside the Supreme Constitutional Court, Mursi’s proponents returned back, compelling the judges club not accept the second round of the referendum.
 
The club’s announcement also came after Islamists claimed that President Mursi has won initial backing from Egyptians for the new constitution, while rights groups and opposition parties reported abuses such as polling stations opening late, officials telling people how to vote, and bribery.
 
The first day of voting in the referendum on the draft basic law resulted in 56.5 percent ‘Yes’ vote, Mursi’s political party said. An opposition official conceded that Egyptians voting on Saturday appeared to have backed the measure.
 
Meanwhile, Egypt’s opposition is calling for mass protests on Tuesday over alleged polling violations after Islamists backing President Mursi claimed victory in the first round of a referendum on a new charter. 
 
The opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, urged Egyptians to “take to the streets on Tuesday to defend their freedoms, prevent fraud and reject the draft constitution” ahead of the next round of voting on Saturday.
 
It claimed “irregularities and violations” marred the initial stage of the referendum last weekend across half of Egypt that Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood said resulted in a 57 percent “yes” vote, according to its unofficial tally.
 
The official count will be announced only after the other half of the country goes to the polls in the second round.
 
Mohamed ElBaradei, the Front’s coordinator and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, renewed his call for Mursi to cancel the referendum and enter talks with the opposition.
 
“Last chance: cancel the ill-reputed referendum and begin a dialogue to close the rift, and (appoint) a capable government that can administer, and bring back the state of law,” he wrote on Twitter.
 
A spokesman for ElBaradei’s group said the comment was not a call to boycott the second round.
 
Large protests both for and against the proposed constitution have been staged over the past three weeks, sparking several violent clashes and revealing deep divisions in Egyptian society over Mursi’s rule.
 
Early this month, eight people died and more than 600 were hurt when rival protesters fought outside the presidential palace in Cairo, prompting the army to deploy troops and tanks to protect it.
 
Some 250,000 soldiers and police have been mobilized to ensure security during the two-stage referendum.

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