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Mohamed Elmeshad: The adoption of a new Egyptian Constitution by a wide margin signals the public’s willingness to return to military rule under General Sisi

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JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: This is The Real News, and I’m Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

In news from Egypt, voters have approved a new draft constitution by a wide margin. That’s according to government officials. The new constitution replaces the one passed under the rule of Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by a military coup in July. It’s seen as validating Morsi’s ouster.

Now joining us to discuss this is Mohamed Elmeshad. He’s an independent journalist who wrote for The Egypt Independent, joining us from London.

Thank you so much for joining us again, Mohammed.


NOOR: So, Mohammed, talk about this new draft constitution, which by some accounts has been approved by a 98 percent margin. There was a boycott by the Muslim Brotherhood, who did vote in Mohamed Morsi to power, who was–as I mentioned in the introduction, he was removed by a military coup. So talk about what this referendum means and the fact that it was boycotted by a vast segment of the population.

ELMESHAD: Well, first off, I wouldn’t say it was boycotted by a vast segment of the population. But who boycotted it is very significant and relevant. I would say that the numbers coming out on how many people voted yes, there’s no reason to discount them, because, I mean, all the journalists out there on the field have said they barely met anyone who was voting no. And we got a lot of reports of people who did vote no and people who were sort of campaigning for the no vote who were either taken to jail, beaten up, kicked out of polling stations, you name it. All of these stories are out there. So a lot of people who would have voted no just didn’t go out.

There’s a story of–you know, a few days ago, members from one of the nascent political parties, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot some say, but it runs as an independent party who were actually arrested and put in prison with, the actual–their indictment, their [incompr.] said that they’re suspected of campaigning for the no vote, which is kind of ridiculous legally.

A lot of the people who did go out to vote went out with a view that this is, you know, from what we gather, they went out with the view that this is in the best interest of the country for the sake of stability. And that’s sort of where a lot of people look Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the head of the military who sort of orchestrated the new–this roadmap forward.

The people who boycotted–the Muslim Brotherhood for obvious reasons, because they think it’s illegitimate and they believe that Morsi should still be president. A lot of the other people who boycotted–youth groups, revolutionaries groups, to be precise, have boycotted just because they believe that what’s happening now in terms of many of the revolution leaders being arrested, being on trial for charges such as just protesting in the streets–some of them, you know, three very prominent ones, got sentenced to three years after just a month, I think, on trial for protesting, for breaking the protest ban or the ban for protesting without a previously [incompr.] license. So a lot of people are boycotting it just because they think it’s irrelevant given the context of sort of mass arrests, political arrests, just the unconstitutional or sort of unlegal state, the carte blanche that the security forces had during the Mubarak regime.

NOOR: And, Mohammed, we’re going to keep this conversation short because the connection you have isn’t that great. But I just wanted to end on one last point. Talk about the role of the Saudis in this. Bloomberg is reporting that el-Sisi, the general you mentioned, is being backed by the Saudis. They, the Saudis, along with the other Gulf monarchies, have pledged $15 billion to help prop up the Egyptian regime. And what is it going to mean for the future of Egypt if SISI runs and does win in the next presidential election?

ELMESHAD: Well, first the first part, the Gulf part, that’s just sort of an indication that the majority of the Gulf leaders, excluding, of course, Qatar, have vocally supported and, you know, feel at ease with the current state of affairs, which is sort of the old friends from the Mubarak regime being more in power than of course during the Marcy era. Sheikh Maktoum [incompr.] he hade a the BBC interview where he talked about how, you know, he doesn’t thinks Sisi should run, but he is happy that the Brotherhood are gone. The Saudi have a historical animosity with the Muslim Brotherhood. They represent sort of–you know, they shake up sort of the power structure.

So it’s no surprise that many of the Gulf countries have been pledging support. Egypt, which is sort of running dangerously into debt, like, our public debt, I mean, we’ve been–our public budget has supposed to have gone bankrupt a few times already. If Sisi runs for president, every indication, and, you know, shows that he probably will win, what that means for the future of Egypt, I think it means a continuing war to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood, which the current government, the Sisi government, or Adly Mansour government, believe or have named the terrorists organization, just because the Muslim Brotherhood have indicated that they would not stand for sort of a permanent change in what they gained during the past elections. Sisi winning means that they become sidelined forever. Sisi winning means that the military regains its position, if they’d ever, you know, relinquished it to begin with, but, you know, in a very obvious way, the military regains his position at the helm of sort of every executive power in Egypt.

If what happened over the past month, past two, three months continue, you’re going to have a lot of human rights activists claiming that, you know, crying foul because what’s been happening under Sisi’s security, under Sisi’s hold of the security situation in the country, is nothing to write home about. There have been many violations. And if Sisi runs, as I said, he will win. And if that happens, it’s just a matter of how many Egyptians will stand for these violations. As it stands, it looks like many Egyptians will stand for it, because if the referendum is any indication, it looks like the majority of Egyptians just want stability at whatever cost.

Mohamed Elmeshad, thank you so much for joining us.

ELMESHAD: Thanks, Jaisal.

NOOR: You can follow us @therealnews on Twitter, Tweet me questions and comments @jaisalnoor.

Thank you so much for joining us.


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Mohamed Elmeshad is an independent journalist based in Cairo and former reporter for Al-Masry Al-Youm's  Egypt Independent. He graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in Economics and a Minor in Journalism from the George Washington University.  He worked in Benin as a Peace Corps Volunteer between 2006-2008 where he focused on Small Enterprise Development and other educational projects.  This was followed by two years as a Corporate Analyst at a Private Equity firm in Bahrain.