Liberals concerned about rushed Egypt referendum

Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE group leader), Edward McMillan-Scott (Lib Dem, UK) and Hans Van Baalen (VVD, Netherlands) who visited Cairo on 26-27 February to meet the interim regime and reform groups, are concerned about the validity of the referendum on elements of the constitution in Egypt taking place tomorrow, Saturday 19th March.

Because there has been no voter registration, voters will simply produce their identity cards and indelible ink will be used to prevent duplicate voting. Liberals are alarmed at how the process is being rushed and are concerned about the validity of the referendum as reformist parties have not had time to fully emerge and most lack access to voters in various constituencies.

“Egypt is a hugely important country in the region and is currently at a turning point in its political history. It is vital that the process to constitutional change be managed properly and without fault if the country is to have a stable, inclusive and democratic future.” said Verhofstadt. “The National Assembly for Change says the referendum is premature and will encourage voters to say ‘no’. We can also understand this call for a ‘no’ vote.”

The drafting of the constitutional changes was done by a group not considered representative of all national interests by reformist groups. They also claim that the referendum process lacks the involvement of legitimate political parties and the wider Egyptian public.

Edward McMillan-Scott, who has visited Cairo twice in the past month to meet the reformist Coalition for Change in his capacity as Vice President for Democracy and Human rights, and who observed the 2005 parliamentary elections in Egypt said: “No one has trusted, quite rightly, Egyptian polls to date. This was their opportunity to demonstrate that the tricks of the past had been replaced by a genuine process. Sadly, this referendum is not being held to international standards.”

Hans Van Baalen, President of Liberal International said: “The Arab world is watching Egypt and our contacts there suggest great scepticism about this referendum, its timing, and its substance. It is of vital importance that the first real democratic opportunity Egypt has after the fall of the Mubarak regime is genuinely democratic. We call on the current interim Egyptian leadership to conduct the political process according to democratic principles”.

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