Egypt Braces for Vote Amid Conspiracies, Protests

But the whole referendum might be determined by the 'couch party'

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 14, 2012 6:00 AM CST

(Newser) – Egyptians will go to the polls tomorrow to vote on a controversial constitutional referendum that could determine the country's fate. Here's what you need to know:

  • The referendum would install a new constitution that Mohamed Morsi's government says is essential to move the country forward—but which the opposition says is too Islamist and tramples on the rights of Christians and other minorities.

  • State television has already shown the military lining up to protect polling stations, Reuters reports. Roughly 120,000 troops and 6,000 tanks are scheduled to be deployed. There's reason to expect the worst: At least eight people have been killed and hundreds more wounded in street fights between Morsi's supporters and the opposition.
  • One Cairo prosecutor says Morsi has interfered with an investigation into those clashes, intervening on behalf of his Islamist supporters, the New York Times reports. Those Islamists have allegedly detained and beaten opposition protesters, accusing them of hatching a conspiracy against Morsi and hiring thugs to start trouble.
  • Morsi staged a rally today at a mosque near the presidential palace, with crowds gathering to chant "We've come here to say 'yes' to the constitution! Long live President Morsi!"
  • Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei predicted the vote would turn bloody, and urged Morsi to cancel it "before it is too late."
  • But for all the rage on the streets, the election could very well be decided by what Egyptians call "Hezb Al-Kanaba"—meaning "the couch party," the Wall Street Journal reports. Millions of Egyptians with no obvious interest in politics will likely be decisive in the voting.
  • Many of those people look set to vote "yes" just to get things over with. "Do I like the constitution? No," says one engineer. "But I want the referendum to take place so we can get out of this prolonged transitional period that's making me and millions of Egyptians wish we had left the country."

Egyptian Christians gather for a prayer rally ahead of the constitutional referendum at Samaan el-Kharaz church in Cairo, Egypt.
Egyptian Christians gather for a prayer rally ahead of the constitutional referendum at Samaan el-Kharaz church in Cairo, Egypt.   (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk)
Soldiers walk past a military tank securing the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012.
Soldiers walk past a military tank securing the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012.   (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)
In this Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian Christians gather for a prayer rally ahead of the constitutional referendum at Samaan el-Kharaz church in Cairo, Egypt.
In this Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 photo, Egyptian Christians gather for a prayer rally ahead of the constitutional referendum at Samaan el-Kharaz church in Cairo, Egypt.   (AP Photo/Roger Anis, El Shorouk)
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