By Adham Youssef
The Misr Al-Qawia (Strong Egypt) political party held a press conference on Monday, announcing its boycott of the referendum on the amended constitution, which is to take place 14 and 15 January.
During the conference, the party issued a statement outlining its position towards the referendum and the current political situation.
“The party was a part of the movement that took place in 30 June, calling for early presidential elections. However, the party was against mass arrests and violence since 3 July last year,” said the party’s secretary general Ahmed Salem.
“We have emphasised the necessity of having a national referendum on the suggested road map, only to be met by the forceful interference of the transitional government in the political scene leading to marginalising all opposition.”
The centrist party, which is founded and lead by former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Abul Fotouh, declared that it will reject the newly amended constitution and has criticised several articles in the draft constitution.
The party has taken different steps to oppose legal procedures taken by the transitional government. It recently appealed a decision by interim President Adly Mansour on the referendum voting process which allowed citizens to vote at polling stations different from the one their address is registered on.
The party also stressed that there has been an ongoing campaign of repression and distortion against any voice showing opposition to the constitution. This, the statement continued, is telling of the current government’s unwillingness to have a real democratic transparent process.
Finally, the statement pointed that several members have been arrested for “practicing their freedom and rights opposing the amended constitution”.
“The current scene makes us believe that the referendum will lack the simplest internationally known principles of democracy, and will further the oppressive procedures and the organised campaign against the opposition to the current government.”
Last week, three members were arrested while holding “No to the Constitution” posters in Garden City, Cairo. Also, the party claimed that its secretary general in Gharbeya and a member of its high committee, Dr Mahmoud Abdel Hamid, were arrested by the police on 4 January.
On Sunday, three activists from the party were also arrested for carrying posters rallying people to vote No in Hadayek Al-Qobba. The arrested members were sent to the prosecutor’s office and let go a day later.
Human Rights Watch issued a report today saying that seven activists from the party were arrested in three separate incidents after being found carrying posters calling for a No vote, after which they could be facing criminal charges.
The report by Human Rights Watch quoted Joe Stork, deputy director of the organisation’s Middle East and North Africa division, as saying that “Egyptian citizens should be free to vote for or against the new constitution, and not fear arrest for simply campaigning for a No vote.”
“Protecting the right to vote requires safeguarding the right to free expression,” Stork said.