Egypt sets constitution vote ‘for January’

Controversy arose last week when the president reportedly saw “errors” in the draft charter

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A referendum on Egypt’s much-debated constitution will be held in the middle of January, a government minister said on Monday.

The nationwide vote will be held two days, Hany Mahmoud, minister of administrative development, said in an interview with Egyptian TV channel CBC.

When asked about a date for the referendum, Mahmoud said: “We are talking about mid-January.”

Interim President Adly Mansour is expected to set the official date this week, Mahmoud added in the interview.

A 50-member committee completed drawing up Egypt’s constitutional draft last week and handed it to interim President Adly Mansour.

But controversy arose last week when the president reportedly met with his consultants to discuss what he saw as “errors” in the draft charter awaiting to be put to a national vote, sources told an Egyptian daily newspaper.

According to the privately-owned Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm, Adly discussed with his presidential office consultants what he saw as errors in the wording of the draft.

The draft leaves uncertain which elections would be called first after its adoption — the parliamentary or the presidential. It says only the first must be held within 90 days of its adoption, with the next within six months after.

The draft removes Islamist-inspired provisions written into the Egyptian constitution approved in a referendum last year while President Mohammad Mursi was still in office.

But the charter also leaves the military with unfettered freedom to choose the country’s defense minister from within its ranks and grants him immunity for two, four-year presidential terms.

Egypt’s Islamist Salafist Nour Party said on Saturday that it had formed a committee to mobilize voters in favor of the newly drafted constitution.

Shaaban Abdul Aleem, a member of the ultra-conservative party, told Al Arabiya News Channel that the party endorsed the draft constitution because it “preserves the Islamic identity of Egypt.”

Abdul-Aleem stressed said “religious propaganda” will not be part of its strategy to amass support for the new charter.

“We will not use religious propaganda or attempt to influence voters religiously through our campaign, as we are not a religious based party, although we refer to Islam and Shariah as a higher reference, which is constitutional,” he said.

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