World Bulletin/News Desk
Tucked away in a Cairo bazaar that in better times drew hordes of tourists, shopkeeper Ahmed Sayed said voting "no" in a referendum on Egypt's future is a luxury he cannot afford.
His shop full of model pyramids, statuettes of the Sphinx and "hubbly bubbly" water pipes, Sayed is backing a constitution with an Islamist flavour that opponents say will deepen divisions in a country battered by two years of turmoil.
"We need stability," Sayed, 35, said, grumbling that he was only seeing a quarter the number of customers compared before the uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 and scared away foreign visitors.
"If we vote 'no', we will be back at square one. The tourists will never come as long as there is no stability. We shopowners are the ones harmed," he said in the Khan al-Khalily market, next to mosques that date back hundreds of years.
Egyptians queued to vote on Saturday on the constitution, with soldiers joining police to secure the referendum after deadly protests during the run-up. Official results are due after a second round of voting on Dec. 22.
In a rundown neighbourhood of Cairo, a woman with a big bag of potatoes balanced on her head said: "Those who vote 'no' are well-off. They are comfortable and living well but we here are the ones suffering."
For many across the Arab world's most populous nation, a vote for the constitution is simply a way to move beyond the latest crisis regardless of reservations.
"I voted 'yes' for stability," said Ahmed Abou Rabu, 39, a shopkeeper in Alexandria, Egypt's second biggest city.
"I cannot say all the articles of the constitution are perfect but I am voting for a way forward. I don't want Egyptians to go in circles, forever lost in this transition."
In Rafah, on Egypt's border with Gaza, Moussa Abu Ayad echoed that view: "Those who want chaos don't want the constitution. We want to say 'yes' for stability."
The opposition coalition of leftists, Christians and liberal-minded Muslims say failure to get it right now promises more bloodshed. Eight people were killed in clashes between rival factions last week outside the presidential palace.
But some Egyptians said shortcomings could be fixed later and supporting the draft would at least start to restore order.
"The constitution won't lead to calm immediately but it will help the country restore calm over time," said Ahmed Fouad, 65-year-old pensioner in the more affluent Cairo suburb of Maadi. "The people are tired."
Others were less optimistic, regardless of the outcome, resigned to more protests and more upheaval for an economy that has long relied heavily on tourism.
"The country is divided," said Hady Adel, 23, a 'no' voter working in another shop full of trinkets in Cairo's bazaar. "If the result is 'yes' the opposition will protest and if the result is 'no' Islamists won't stay quiet."
Qaradawi: Egypt may lose $ 20 bln if people vote ‘no’
Meanwhile, the Qatar-based Egyptian Islamic preacher Youssef Qaradawi has called on Egyptians to participate and vote 'yes' in the constitutional referendum set on Saturday, Turkish news agency Anadolu reported on Friday.
Qaradawi, who heads the International Union of Muslim Scholars, said during the Friday prayer's speech that voting 'no' in the awaited polling in Egypt will cost the country a 'big loss' as the attraction of investments will be hampered especially, $20 billion from Qatar.
"I will vote yes, I don't care about neither [President Mohamed] Morsi nor Freedom and Justice Party, but I do care about Egypt, the greatest Arab country'' Anadolu quoted Qaradawi as saying.
Qaradawi has condemned the wave of violence which Egypt's streets saw last week rejecting the attack on Muslim Brotherhood, affirming that they want a civil state not a religious as some people claim.
Earlier on Friday, Thousands of protesters for and against the drafted constitution have held events across the country today. Qaradawi has come under scrutiny of the opposition who deem him as a staunch supporter of Morsi.
Last Mod: 15 Aralık 2012, 16:37