Egyptian expatriates casting their vote at the country’s embassy in Doha on Wednesday.
BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB AND SIDI MOHAMMAD
DOHA: Egyptian expatriates here began taking part in the controversial constitutional referendum that kicked off here at the country’s embassy on Wednesday. The voting will continue until tomorrow.
Out of an estimated 150,000 Egyptians here, only 32,000 are registered voters who will be allowed to participate in the referendum, an embassy official told The Peninsula.
The official, requesting anonymity, said: “There are about 130,000-150,000 Egyptians in Qatar, but only 32,000 are registered voters. People with valid documents such as the Computerised Passport/Egypt’s or Qatar’s national identity card (ID) will only be allowed to vote.”
Those who have been issued computerised passports or valid ID cards are considered as registered voters, the official said.
The referendum witnessed large turnout. According to some voters, the Ambassador himself was sitting near the ballot box to ensure free and fair voting.
A spot exit poll conducted by this newspaper revealed that a majority of the people had voted “Yes”.
A voter, who gave only his first name as Kareem, working with Qatar Foundation, said: “The draft constitution is very good. There are many interesting things that were not there in the old one. For example, freedom of speech, media freedom and freedom to practice any religion are clauses that guarantee individual freedom”.
Asked, if he agreed with the accusation that President Mohammed Mursi is a ‘power grabber’ he said: “No, not at all. In fact, there are many other interesting things in the draft constitution. Earlier, the president had the power to dissolve Parliament, but now it is much more difficult for him to do so.”
“In addition, under the new constitution, the president will not be able to appoint a minister without the approval of the parliament. So, overall, I am very pleased with it. And unfortunately, the role of the army in politics is going to continue for the next one or two decades.”
Dr Tariq Ali, who holds a doctorate from Taxas University in petroleum geology, and came to vote with his wife, Amani Al Sayeed, said: “I have no problem with the draft constitution. The present president is far better than Hosni Mubark. There cannot be any comparison between them.”
Asked to comment about the protests in Egypt, Dr Ali, said: “It is healthy to have protest for good reasons. But they do not believe in negotiation. They are calling for democracy but they themselves don’t believe in it. The Western media are biased. They don’t like Islamists coming to power. But this guy (Mursi) is very good. He managed to get rid of the army in three months what Recep Tayyip Erdogan (in Turkey) did in seven years.”
Al Sayeed added: “Those who are rejecting the referendum are not representing Egypt, and they don’t want Egypt to develop. If they really represent Egyptians, they should tell their people to vote ‘No’.
“Dr Mursi is the President of every Egyptian; men, women, Muslim, Christian, and all other faiths. There is an Islamophobia in the Western world. They must know that Islam teaches peace, brotherhood and to live peacefully,” added Masaad Azab, a teacher.
Farhad Jibrael, a business developer, said: “Everybody knows who is behind the present protests. They are the pro-Mubarak elements, supported by the friends of Israel. Mursi is a very good man. Let’s give him a chance to prove himself.”
Another Egyptian, said: “This is very unfair to bully a democratically elected president just because he does not suit the West. Since the Super power is not able to influence the political decisions in Cairo anymore, it is trying to create situations of unrest. Attacks on Muslim Brotherhood headquarters and the deliberate delay of aid packages by IMF are the recent examples. They want Mursi to fail.”
However, not all had the same opinion. Nancy Mansoor, an Egyptian girl, said: “The draft constitution is anti-human rights in so many ways. It discriminates against women. There are many clauses that need changes, such as the presidential privileges, limiting the rights of the parliament, healthcare benefits and others.