Thursday’s papers: Constitutional reform and security measures

The referendum on constitutional amendments to be held next Saturday remains the primary focus of both state-run and private newspapers, with all political forces urging citizens to participate. A key development will unfold today as the High Administrative Court revisits appeals made against the referendum that were denied yesterday by a lower court, wrote the state-run al-Ahram.

In an interview with al-Ahram, Ismail Attman, director of the Department of Morale Affairs in Egypt’s armed forces, asks citizens to participate in the Saturday referendum. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has no aspirations to rule the country, he stated, while emphasizing that the primary responsibility of the armed forces is protecting Egypt’s borders. Attman explained that if the amendments are approved, several laws will be amended including those on the exercise of political rights, the formation of political parties, upper and lower houses of parliament and presidential candidates.

If the amendments are rejected, alternative options include drafting a new constitution or running presidential elections under the 1971 Constitution, Attman added.

General Mamdouh Shahin — a member of the SCAF — told the privately owned al-Shorouk that the main difference between accepting and rejecting the constitutional amendments would be the length of the transition period. The media will not be allowed to discuss the referendum on Friday, in order to allow people time to reflect and reach a decision, he added.

Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gouma urges people to participate in the referendum, yet opposes any changes to article two of the Constitution, the state-run al-Akhbar wrote.

Political parties are collaborating to ensure the integrity and safety of the polling process. Al-Shorouk writes that the Supreme Judicial Committee overseeing the referendum is in permanent session, coordinating with all parties and fine-tuning procedures. A judge will head each polling station and security forces will protect polling stations from outside. Members of the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition will monitor the voting process to ensure its integrity.

More than 16 political parties and coalitions oppose the constitutional amendments, wrote independent daily Al-Wafd. The January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition began distributing one million handouts yesterday in various Egyptian governorates calling on people to say no to the constitutional amendments. The coalition is also organizing a number of press conferences and seminars to raise awareness, wrote al-Shorouk. Key figures such as Amr Moussa and Mohamed al-Baradei will be invited to speak in these seminars.

A key objection to the constitutional amendments is related to the short transition period before holding parliamentary elections, which some believe will result in a parliament that fails to truly represent the Egyptian electorate. Mohamed al-Baradei restated this argument in an online video posted yesterday.

New parties continue to form as existing ones develop their programs and candidates. Al-Shorouk wrote that the Muslim Brotherhood would soon found a new political party named “Renaissance,” it addition to the newly-formed  Freedom and Justice Party it recently created. Tensions are expected to heighten within the Brotherhood; the group’s youth support the new party and want its leader, Abdel Moneim Abu al-Fatouh, to run in presidential elections.

Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq will announce after the referendum whether he plans to run for presidential elections, wrote al-Shorouk.

The restructuring of the State Security and Investigation Services into the newly formed National Security Apparatus remains a concern. Minister of Interior announced that the new apparatus would focus on espionage and fighting terrorism and that restructuring process will take one month of intensive training, wrote al-Akhbar.

As investigations into the events of the 25 January Revolution continue, the fact-finding committee at the National Council for Human Rights will announce the findings of its investigations into the violence perpetrated by security forces against protesters, the release of prisoners and the role of state media during the revolution, within a few days, wrote al-Ahram. Preliminary results show that the number of those killed exceeds 600.

As the military police has also been accused of using violence against protestors, General Hamdy Bedein, head of military police, denied claims of human rights violations by the military police in an interview with al-Shorouk. Allegations that the Egyptian Museum was turned into a detention center are untrue and the videos might have been fabricated, he added. Asked about procedures in detaining civilians, Bedein said that they are similar to those governed by civil law and that the military police does not beat up or fire at civilians under any circumstances. He cited what has become known as “Bloody Wednesday,” when the military refused to interfere between Tahrir protestors and pro-Mubarak thugs, as an example.

Egypt's papers:

Al-Ahram: Daily, state-run, largest distribution in Egypt

Al-Akhbar: Daily, state-run, second to Al-Ahram in institutional size

Al-Gomhorriya: Daily, state-run

Rose al-Youssef: Daily, state-run, close to the National Democratic Party's Policies Secretariat

Al-Dostour: Daily, privately owned

Al-Shorouk: Daily, privately owned

Al-Wafd: Daily, published by the liberal Wafd Party

Al-Arabi: Weekly, published by the Arab Nasserist party

Youm7: Weekly, privately owned

Sawt al-Umma: Weekly, privately owned

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