The United States on Tuesday urged all sides in Egypt to increase political engagement after Egyptian officials announced that voters had overwhelmingly approved a new constitution drafted by President Mohammed Mursi’s Islamist allies.
“President Mursi, as the democratically elected leader of Egypt, has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognizes the urgent need to bridge divisions,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement, noting that many Egyptians had voiced “significant concerns” over the constitutional process.
“We hope those Egyptians disappointed by the result will seek more and deeper engagement. We look to those who welcome the result to engage in good faith. And we hope all sides will re-commit themselves to condemn and prevent violence,” Ventrell said.
On Tuesday, Egypt’s electoral commission confirmed that 64 percent of voters had backed the constitution in the two-stage referendum that ended at the weekend — a process the opposition said was marred by fraud.
The battle over the constitution led to a month of protests, some of them violent, including clashes on December 5 that killed eight people and injured hundreds.
Washington has consistently supported Egypt on its path to democracy following the ouster last year of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak, Ventrell said, while cautioning that the voices of the opposition must not be squelched.
“We have called for genuine consultation and compromise across Egypt’s political divides,” the spokesman said.
“Egypt needs a strong, inclusive government to meet its many challenges,” Ventrell added.
He said the future of the country, a key U.S. ally, “depends not on the ability of one side to prevail over the other,” but rather on the commitment of all to “find a more united path forward.”
The “yes” vote paves the way for a parliamentary election in about two months, setting the stage for yet another electoral battle between surging Islamists and their fractious liberal and leftist opponents.
The National Salvation Front opposition coalition, however, has already dismissed the plebiscite as “only one battle” and vowed to “continue the fight for the Egyptian people.”