Queuing up to vote on Egypt’s referendum

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

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During the 2011 constitutional referendum, tension and enthusiasm reigned while during the 2012 referendum, anger did. I remembered this as I stood in line yesterday awaiting my turn to vote. Most those waiting were calm and determined. That’s what I sensed most.

They patiently waited their turn as they optimistically smiled. Everyone stood in line praying for Egypt and exchanging conversations on the upcoming hope. A loud ululation is heard. Everyone laughed and one person asked: “What’s going on in there? Why the celebrations?”

Many people answered saying: “[A woman] is happy for Egypt.” None of those standing were disturbed by a number of policemen and soldiers being deployed to protect against any Muslim Brotherhood insanity. On the contrary, the security forces’ presence made them feel reassured.

Faded habit

I can still recall how when we were kids, our parents used to dress us in military uniforms during national holidays. This habit faded with time and now it’s almost gone. In recent years and especially when the Brotherhood and some of its supporters managed to distance the army from some societal segments, it appeared that the army lost a lot of its presence among the people. It appeared like a gap will widen by the day.

Some people are claiming that voting on the referendum is tantamount to voting on the desire that Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi runs for presidency. This might be true.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

The Brotherhood made efforts to serve that end. One of the reasons and results behind the revolution that Egypt witnessed is the rekindling of that real relationship between the army and the people. Therefore I wasn’t surprised to see that some children who accompanied their parents on this day were dressed in military uniform. To them, it was cause for celebration.

A new step on the roadmap

This constitution is significant for finalizing several issues and beginning a new step in our journey. Since the Brotherhood and its supporters are aware of this, they are fiercely fighting to prevent against the referendum’s success. The referendum’s success would completely expose the Brotherhood and their legitimacy claims.

They’ve doubted that the polls will be legitimate, but these polls have created an obvious legitimacy that cannot be doubted. Some people are claiming that voting on the referendum is tantamount to voting on the desire that Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi runs for presidency. This might be true.

But I think there’s more to it. I think voting on the referendum ends all Brotherhood “legitimacy” claims and begins a new start for Egypt towards establishing a real civil state which main concern is the citizens and their livelihood. It’s a referendum on life against murder.

Majority approval

I have discussed Egypt’s situation with many English media and political figures during my visits to London. Before the Brotherhood’s constitution passed last year, these figures used to listen to my opinions, discuss them and understand them. But after that constitution passed, their responses focused on the fact that Egypt now has a constitution which the majority approved.

When I tried to argue about this constitution’s defects and the manner in which it passed, they used to say: “But that’s the constitution which the majority approved. You must deal with it as it’s become the chosen charter and everyone must respect it.”

This stance explains why the Brotherhood and its supporters are fighting to sink the most recent constitution.

Then it was my turn to vote, and I checked “Yes,” ticking that box more than once.

This article was first published in al-Masry al-Youm on Jan. 15, 2014.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

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