Referendum Vote Puts Egyptian Prospects for Democracy to the Test

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Following waves of protests and the removal of former President Hosni Mubarak, Saturday marks what some are calling the first time Egyptians will vote in a free and fair election. Egypt's new military rulers have scheduled a referendum on 10 proposed amendments to the country's current constitution. If passed, the amendments would, among other changes, introduce presidential term limits and open the field to multiple political parties.

But many protest leaders and politicians, including presidential front-runner Mohammed ElBaradei, are skeptical about whether these amendments can redeem a constitution designed to perpetuate authoritarian governance.

They say the amendments fail to address the constitution's most egregious shortcoming: its reliance on a powerful executive branch that dominates the other branches of government.

If the public rejects the amendments, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which assumed power from Mr. Mubarak when he stepped down on Feb. 11, could issue a "constitutional declaration" that would allow the country to proceed toward elections without formally revising the constitution.

Critics also added that if Egyptians vote for the amendments, the transitional timetable will proceed without allowing time for independent candidates to organize new political parties. There is no alternative process set up should the public votes against the amendments in the referendum.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.

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Miriam Krule writes for and produces The Atlantic's International channel.

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