In December 2012, the 33% of eligible Egyptian voters who went to the polls to vote on Morsi's constitution referendum were not a significant number, but the 64% who voted yes were. In a sweeping win, Morsi gained control. It would have seemed then that Egyptians, exhausted and spent, would never go to the polls again. More than a year has passed since, and, by any standard, that year was filled with cataclysms and upheavals.
On January 14 and 15, Egyptians will, yet again, go to the polls to vote for or against the new referendum. How will Egyptians vote and what will the consequences be?
The majority of Egyptians have not read the constitution; disturbingly, they don’t believe they need to. But the broad guidelines of the 2014 Constitution tell them they are voting for a balanced constitution that provides equal rights to all Egyptians. For them, that is sufficient.
But more importantly, behind the “yes” vote is a vote of confidence for the army and General Abdel Fattah El Sisi and against the Muslim Brotherhood. The yes vote tells the world Egyptians approve of June 30th and stand behind the current leaders.
The new constitution is the fruit of several months of hard work by the Committee of 50 with Amr Moussa, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs and Secretary General of the Arab League, at the helm. Amr Moussa continues to promote the constitution in the media and in lectures hoping to convince Egyptians of his salient effort.
Amr Moussa is not the only one promoting the constitution. TV channels play songs urging Egyptians to, first, vote and, second, to vote yes; renowned Egyptians voice their choice publically promoting the constitution and the yes vote; and a deluge of ads fill the streets with a “yes” and a checkmark next to it. I just received a text message from the Federation of Egyptian Industries encouraging me to vote and "build Egypt." The push is obvious. But Egyptians are set on going to the polls and voting yes anyways, with or without encouragement.
If the yay vote wins, Egypt will continue along the Road Map it drew for itself after June 30. If the nay vote wins, or at least the boycotters are in the millions, Egypt may flounder again causing even further disruption and an apparent Muslim Brotherhood victory.
But in spite of the fear of violence and terror, and in spite of the worry that a suicide bomber would detonate himself in the middle of a poll line up, Egyptians are set to go to the polls, stand in line for hours, and vote yes. They are on a mission.
Change will come fast after that. General Abdel Fattah El Sissi will resign his position as Commander in Chief and Minister of Defence, and soon afterwards he will run for president of Egypt and win by a sweeping landslide.
When, not if, El Sissi runs, no one of significance will run against him. Although the unified front that Egyptians portray is truly monumental, it is unsettling that able Egyptians will opt out of the presidential race. It actually won’t be as exciting or rewarding if General El Sissi wins by acclamation. However, no one has a chance of winning against General El Sissi. Why bother they will say.
I visualize Egyptians partying to their hearts’ content. Amidst this celebratory mood though, some will think otherwise. Muslim Brotherhood members will acquiesce defeat but continue to flail and disturb. At that point, Egyptians will disregard the Muslim Brotherhood altogether. To them, Egypt will have reached its first step on its path to redemption. Yes, violence may continue, but Egyptians will pay it no attention.
The other group is by far more prudent and vital. It is the activists, those who were against the military in 2011 and remain against it today, and those who are against the Ministry of Interior and the judicial system as they stand; they ask for a complete revamping of both apparatuses.
I tell these activists change is in the making; however, today stability comes first. With stability change is inevitable. These activists will continue to play a fundamental role in defining the new Egypt. Their firm vigilance will maintain balance and encourage integrity; their dream of a better Egypt will materialize if they stand behind their visions peacefully and honourably.
My concern is how fast the newly elected president will be able to implement the positive change Egyptians are calling for. It may take forever for the fossilized ways of the past to be eradicated. Will Egyptians remain patient?
My second concern is though El Sissi was tried and tested on July 3rd when he ousted Morsi and annulled the archaic constitution, nothing is guaranteed. El Sissi, a devoted, empathic Egyptian, is revered and listened to. Whether he can “upright the leaning,” as the Egyptian proverb goes, remains to be seen.
See, I told you it isn’t the constitution; it is what is behind it that counts.