Egyptians set to vote on army-backed post-Morsi constitution
CAIRO / DUBAI - Reuters
An election official stands next to boxes containing voting slips for a referendum on the new constitution in Cairo January 12, 2014. REUTERS PhotoEgyptians vote this week for the first time since Mohamed Morsi's downfall in a constitutional referendum that will likely give a final push to a presidential bid by the man who deposed him, army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Approval of the rewritten constitution appears a foregone conclusion: Morsi's now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood is urging a boycott rather than a 'no' vote, while many Egyptians who backed his overthrow are expected to vote 'yes' in a show of support for the army-backed order that has replaced Islamist rule.
The state is urging citizens to vote in numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday. Analysts say it hopes that the turnout and the 'yes' vote will outstrip ballots won by the Muslim Brotherhood to give the new order an electoral seal of legitimacy.
"Egypt is on the threshold of a decisive stage in its history, the results of which are awaited by the world," Sisi said on Saturday in public remarks that included the clearest indication to date that he will stand for election.
"If I run, then it must be at the request of the people, and with a mandate from my army," said the 59-year-old, who is depicted by his supporters as a saviour who will restore stability to a country that has seen three years of turmoil.
Sisi deposed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected head of state, on July 3 following mass protests against his rule. His Islamist opponents see him as the mastermind of a coup that set off the worst internal strife in Egypt's modern history.
As the referendum approaches, Sisi's supporters are conflating him and the constitution into one: "Yes to the constitution" declares one banner strung from a Cairo building, alongside a photo of Sisi in army uniform.
UAE premier: Egypt's Sisi could run as a civilian
The United Arab Emirates prime minister said on Monday Egypt's army chief should not run as a military man for president, but if he stood as a civilian that would be a personal matter, the Gulf state's official news agency reported.
A story outlining the views of premier Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum appeared on the WAM agency several hours after he gave an interview to the BBC, in which he was quoted as saying Sisi was better off staying in the military than running for president.
The UAE, along with the Gulf's dominant Sunni Muslim state Saudi Arabia, championed army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after he deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last year.
They have since given Egypt billions of dollars in economic aid.
The WAM story quoted an official source in Sheikh Mohammed's office as saying:
"His Royal Highness's brotherly advice is that General al-Sisi should not run as a military man for the post of the presidency. However his nomination as a civilian, in response to the demands of the people, that is a personal affair that only concerns General Sisi.
"The source ... affirmed that the UAE respected the will of the Egyptian people and supports their political choices."
In his earlier comments reported by the BBC, Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the ruler of Dubai, also said Egypt was better off without Mursi.
In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry declined to comment.