Dec. 15, 2012, midnight
Egyptian citizens participated in a referendum, held over two phases on December 15 and December 22, 2012, to determine the fate of their new constitution. The new constitution was approved by the Constituent Assembly on November 30and on December 1 President Mohammed MORSI announced that the referendum would take place on December 15. The official referendum results were released by Egypt’s High Election Commission (HEC) on December 25, and showed the draft constitution was approved with 63.8 percent of the vote (10,693,911 votes), with 36.2 percent of voters opposed. Turnout for the referendum was low, with only 32.9 percent of registered voters participating.
Due to the heated political environment that preceded the referendum, many judges indicated their unwillingness to participate in the supervision process (the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration calls for full judiciary supervision of Parliamentary and Presidential elections as well as referenda). In response, the Egyptian Higher Judiciary Elections Commission (HJEC), the official body mandated with supervising referenda and elections, requested that President MORSI issue a decree to hold the referendum in two phases, so that available judges would be shifted from one phase to the next. A Presidential decree was consequently issued on December 12, declaring that voting would be held in two consecutive phases, and detailing the governorates for each phase.
It is worth noting that only a very limited number of articles contained in Law No. 73 of 1956 on the Practice of Political Rights provide explicit reference and clear guidance to the conduct of referenda in Egypt. Additionally, in the 2012 constitutional referendum (as in the 2011 referendum regarding amending the Egyptian constitution) no threshold on voter participation was imposed, nor was an approval threshold required to legitimize the passage of the constitution. In fact, the criteria which determined approval of the new Constitution was the practice used in previous referenda in Egypt—requiring a simple majority of the vote, or 50%+1 of valid votes. Following the announcement of results, President MORSI signed a decree putting the constitution into effect on December 25.
People’s Assembly elections in Egypt will likely take place around March 2013. Per the Constitutional Declaration issued by President MORSI in August 2012, procedures for the legislative elections must begin within two months of the constitution being approved.