Foreign NGOs to monitor Egypt constitution referendum

Referendum to be held mid-January and overseen by 73 local and foreign non-governmental organizations

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Egypt said on Monday that it will let six foreign groups monitor a referendum early next year on the revised constitution that is currently being drafted.

Interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi on Monday said that the referendum - which will most likely take place in the second half of January - would be the “most critical moment” for Egypt, according to the Associated Press.

“Sixty-seven local NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and six foreign NGOs will be allowed to monitor the referendum,” Hisham Mokhtar, spokesman for the High Election Commission told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse.

Mokhtar did not name the foreign NGOs.

The referendum is the first key step of a roadmap adopted Egypt’s interim government, after Islamist President Mohammad Mursi’s July ouster.

Rushed referendum

Egypt’s previous constitution was rushed through a referendum in Dec. 2012, after he declared his decisions beyond judicial review, which caused a political crisis in the country until it was retracted.

Drafted by a mainly Islamist panel, Mursi’s constitution used conservative interpretations of Islam as a primary source of legislation – later being suspended by Egypt’s new authorities after his fall from power.

Officials quoted by AFP said that the January referendum would likely be held after Christian holidays.

Egyptian’s Christians, mostly Copts, make up a significant minority in the country, and are represented on the 50-member panel tasked with drafted up the new constitution.

(With AFP and the Associated Press)