Egyptians Vote on Reforms Amid Unrest (AP) By MAAMOUN YOUSSEF CAIRO, EGYPT 05/25/05 12:42 PM)
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CAIRO, Egypt -- Police and plainclothes security men beat and
arrested demonstrators calling for a boycott of Wednesday´s
government-backed referendum on constitutional changes that would
clear the way for Egypt´s first multicandidate presidential election.
Opponents say the referendum does not go far enough in advancing
democracy, contending the rules being laid down ensure that
President Hosni Mubarak will have no serious challengers and that
his ruling National Democratic Party will keep its grip on power.
It was difficult to find people at the polling stations Wednesday
who said they planned to vote "no," but it wasn´t clear whether this
was in protest or disinterest in voting for a measure widely
expected to pass.
"Of course I would say ´yes,´ because the president doesn´t sleep
all night because he is serving us. He looks after our interests,"
said Saaban Mohammed Ahmed, a 42-year-old shopkeeper among about 15
people waiting for a downtown polling station to open.
Several opposition groups called a boycott of the vote and some
planned referendum-day demonstrations despite heavy security.
Scattered anti-Mubarak demonstrations took place in defiance of
warnings, some on the margins of pro-Mubarak street rallies, with
scattered reports of violence. Many gatherings were broken up by
In one, more than a dozen members of the anti-Mubarak movement
Kifaya, or "Enough," were beaten by pro-Mubarak gangs in Cairo. The
protesters sought police protection but a high-ranking officer
ordered lawmen to withdraw and allowed the attackers to set upon the
Elsewhere in the capital, 150 pro-Mubarak protesters attacked Kifaya
members, belting them with wooden sticks use to hold Mubarak
banners. Demonstrators scattered, with some taking refuge inside the
press syndicate building.
One woman trying to leave the building was pounced upon by Mubarak
loyalists who punched and pummeled her with batons and tore her
clothes. As police looked on, the woman screamed, then vomited and
Another clash occurred when demonstrators placed Kifaya stickers
onto placards emblazoned with Mubarak´s face and waved them in the
air, chanting, "Leave, leave Mubarak!"
An Associated Press reporter on the scene said plainclothes state
security investigators were beating, groping and verbally harassing
demonstrators, particularly women.
About a dozen people, mostly women, were violently cornered and
surrounded by nightstick-toting plainclothes police. Some began
beating demonstrators. The AP reporter was grabbed and pulled by the
Kifaya spokesman Abdel Halim Qandil said two group members were
hurt. Police said 10 demonstrators were arrested.
"This is the first time this sort of beating and humiliation has
taken place here in Cairo," Qandil said, but added it has been a
problem in provincial areas.
In downtown Cairo, about 350 state-run TV workers rallied outside
their office building, waving Egyptian flags and carrying banners
urging people to vote.
Egyptian television showed video of Mubarak, his wife and his sons
Alaa and Gamal, with the president dropping his vote in a ballot box.
Mubarak has led Egypt since soon after President Anwar Sadat was
assassinated in 1981, and he has been reinstalled every six years
in "yes" or "no," single-candidate referendums, which he is now
trying to end. Mubarak hasn´t formally announced he will run again
but is widely expected to do so.
Egypt´s opposition leaders are relatively unknown, with the
exception of the popular Muslim Brotherhood, which favors the
establishment of an Islamic state. The Brotherhood, the country´s
oldest and largest Islamic movement, has urged its supporters to
boycott the vote.
The amended article would replace references to presidential
referendums with references to elections and stipulate some rules.
Most controversially, it requires independent candidates to get 250
recommendations from elected members of parliament and local
councils _ which all are dominated by Mubarak´s party _ before being
allowed to enter the race.
The measure needs support from at least 51 percent of voters to
pass. If it passes as expected, an election law would need to be
crafted laying out specific rules and guidelines for the September
election. ___Associated Press reporters Maggie Michael, Sarah El
Deeb and Pakinam Amer contributed to this report. (Copyright 2005
Associated Press. 05/25/05)
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