Egyptian Social Democratic Party will vote 'Yes' in constitution referendum

Ahram Online, Sunday 22 Dec 2013

Lead Social Democratic Party will vote yes to the constitution, despite reservations on some articles and the late intervention of the military on select wording

Mohamed Abou El-Ghar (front), head of Egyptian Social Democratic Party, gestures before a vote at the Shura Council in Cairo December 1, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

The Egyptian Social Democratic Party's high council decided Saturday to give its approval for the draft constitution after an internal vote where 75 percent of members agreed on a Yes vote.

High council members agreed on writing a petition on articles in the draft constitution they don't approve of. These include provisions allowing for military trails of civilians, among others. The petition will also demand that the new protest law be altered.

The controversial new protest law requires protest organisers to inform authorities three days in advance of staging demonstrations, and imposes heavy jail terms and fines on individials who break the law. Activists Alaa Abdel-Fattah, Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel are currently detained and face trial on charges of violating the law.

The party is scheduled to hold a press conference Sunday to announce that it will vote for the constitution. The press conference will also shed light on the circumstances surrounding the voting of the 50-Member Committee tasked with amending the 2012 Constitution.

Mohamed Abu-Ghar, head of the party and a member of the constitution drafting committee, said in a TV interview last week that the wording of the text was changed after the committee had approved the final draft.

In the interview, Abul-Ghar said the issue was brought to his attention two days after the final vote, when the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces invited the panel to dinner, distributing a "neater" version of the constitution that was to be submitted to the interim president and that also included the expression "civilian government" instead of "civilian rule."

"We were almost leaving, so no one opened the draft except Bishop Antonious [who] made a fuss about it, and we were all shocked," Abul-Ghar said, explaining that committee head Amr Moussa brushed off their concerns, but they still "left unhappy with what happened."

Abul-Ghar was invited to report the issue and make it public.

"But honestly, the majority of us did not want to make a fuss out of it," he said. "So as not to affect the positive voting on the constitution."

A national referendum on the constitution is scheduled for 14-15 January.

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