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Another Win for Egypt’s Islamists?

Egypt’s new Islamist-shaped, hastily drafted constitution just won approval in the first round of voting, winning about 56 percent of the vote. The country is now preparing for a second round, where most analysts expect the voters to approve the constitution by a wider margin. Reuters reports:

Egyptians voted narrowly in favor of a constitution shaped by Islamists but opposed by other groups who fear it will divide the Arab world’s biggest nation, officials in rival camps said on Sunday after the first round of a two-stage referendum.

Next week’s second round is likely to give another “yes” vote as it includes districts seen as more sympathetic towards Islamists, analysts say, meaning the constitution would be approved.

The opposition has taken issue with the idea of holding a referendum in the first place, given the violence and lack of security Egypt is facing at the moment. As for the constitution, opponents are worried that its laws are “too Islamist” and abuse the rights of minorities, including those of the sizable Christian population. Unfortunately, the opposition has proven powerless to stop a referendum from being held, and too weak to stop it from passing in a national vote.

The first round was where the opposition had the best chance to win: the voting was held predominately in urban and developed areas where liberal and secular forces were most likely to show strength. The Muslim Brotherhood says it won by 56% in those areas. If true, this suggests a large margin of victory for the MB once both rounds are tallied.

This is a big victory for the Brotherhood, but students of French revolutionary history know that new constitutions rarely solve much in a truly revolutionary situation. A constitution cannot make food prices go down or wages rise. We shall see what happens when the Egyptians make the same discovery.

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