FEBMARAPR
22
201020112013
126 captures
18 Mar 2011 - 25 Feb 2021
About this capture
MIDDLE EAST
17 March 2011 Last updated at 08:28 ET
Q&A: Egypt's constitutional referendum
Egypt's military rulers promised a constitutional referendum ahead of new elections.
Egyptians vote on Saturday in a referendum on changes to the constitution that would pave the way for new parliamentary and presidential elections within six months.
Following the uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down in February, the referendum is being seen as a major test for Egypt's transition to democracy after 30 years of authoritarian rule. But critics are pushing for a "no" vote, arguing a more radical rethink is needed and that the ruling military council is rushing the process.
What is the referendum about?
Egypt's military council suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament last month, meeting demands made by the opposition movement that ousted Mr Mubarak.
The Egyptian constitution had been written with built-in guarantees to keep Mr Mubarak and his political party in power. A committee of judicial experts was appointed to recommend the changes needed to ensure free and fair elections in the future.
Voters are now being asked whether they approve of the changes.
What is being proposed?
Under the proposed amendments to the constitution, the future president would only be allowed to serve two four-year terms, instead of unlimited six-year periods. He or she would also be obliged to appoint a deputy, something Mr Mubarak avoided until his last days in office.
Other amendments would make it easier for individuals to qualify to run as a presidential candidate and re-instate judicial supervision for elections. It would also be more difficult for any leader to maintain the state of emergency.
However the scholars that drafted the changes decided to put off steps limiting presidential powers until after the elections. They suggested the next parliament should form a committee to rewrite the constitution entirely.
Why is the referendum proving controversial?
While Egypt's political opposition has long demanded constitutional reforms, many leading figures complain these changes were drawn up in haste and do not go far enough. The amendments were drafted in just 10 days and offered to the public for discussion for only three weeks.
Critics say amending the constitution amounts to a continuation of the Mubarak regime.
Young activists who led the 18 days of popular protests have called for a "no" vote in the referendum and are planning new demonstrations on Friday.
Potential presidential candidates including Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, and former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei want a new constitution to be drawn up from scratch before any elections are held.
Meanwhile, the two largest political forces in the country - the former ruling National Democratic Party and the Muslim Brotherhood - are encouraging members to vote in favour of the amendments, warning of the dangers of a legislative vacuum.
They are most likely to benefit from early elections as dozens of smaller parties set up following the uprising have yet to fully organise themselves.
What happens if there is a "no" vote?
If the proposed changes are rejected, the amended constitution will be scrapped and a new one drawn up from scratch. Security sources say this would delay the parliamentary and presidential elections to December and early 2012.
In the meantime, Egypt's military council would issue a constitutional decree as a temporary measure.
Analysts suggest the army is eager to keep its early time frame for elections, as it does not want to be tainted by perceived failure to solve the country's manifold problems.
Will this referendum be free and fair?
Whatever the outcome, the referendum could give Egyptians their first experience of a free vote in decades. Under Mr Mubarak's rule, elections were marred by vote-rigging and fraud.
Any Egyptian over the age of 18, holding a national identity card is eligible to vote: This gives a total electorate of about 40 million people.
Polling stations are expected to open between 0800 and 1900 local time. They will be secured by police and supervised by 16,000 members of the judiciary.
Civil society groups and the media have been invited to monitor proceedings.
More on This Story
Related Stories
At a glance: Egypt's constitution 11 FEBRUARY 2011, MIDDLE EAST
Related Internet links
Egypt referendum official site (in Arabic)
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites
Share this page
More Middle East stories
US crew rescued after Libya crash
Two US airmen are rescued in eastern Libya after their warplane crashed during allied operations, officials say.
Yemeni president warns of coup
Strikes on Gaza 'kill children'
Top Stories
US crew rescued after Libya crash
Karzai names Nato pullout areas
Power cables laid at Japan plant
Strikes on Gaza 'kill children'
Yemeni president warns of coup
Features & Analysis
Obama's war tent
How the US leader keeps Libya strike secrets while on the move
Baptism by ice
Russia's trend for dipping children in frozen rivers
In pictures
Why ex-Miss Venezuela wanted people to see her cancer battle
Knut's story
Is it wrong to keep polar bears in zoos?
Most Popular
Shared
Read
'Extinction threat' to religion
US warplane crash-lands in Libya
Tests shed light on life origins
Putin denies Russia rift on Libya
Barack Obama's top secret tent
Power cables laid at Japan plant
Live: Libya crisis
In pictures: Ex-Miss Venezuela's public cancer battle
German incest case father jailed
Cameroon 'robbers' killed at sea
Video/Audio
Elsewhere on BBC News
Invisible hazard
What impact could radiation concerns have on Japan's food industry - at home and abroad?
Programmes
HARDtalk
Media tycoon Alexander Lebedev admits his Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta runs 'slight risks'
Services
News feeds
Mobile
Podcasts
Alerts
E-mail news
About BBC News
Editors' blog
BBC College of Journalism
News sources
World Service Trust
Mobile
About the BBC
BBC Help
Contact Us
Accessibility Help
Terms of Use
Jobs
Privacy & Cookies
Advertise With Us
BBC © MMXI The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.
HomeUS & CanadaLatin AmericaUKAfricaAsia-PacEuropeMid-EastSouth AsiaBusinessHealthSci/EnvironmentTechEntertainmentVideo
DeliciousDiggFacebookredditStumbleUponTwitterEmailPrint
NewsSportWeatherTravelTVRadioMore