Top Egyptian election official steps down

Official overseeing referendum on draft constitution resigns amid allegations of irregularities.

Egypt Divided After First Round Referendum Vote
President Morsi was heavily criticised after the alleged rigging of the constitutional referendum [Getty Images]

One of the top officials in charge of overseeing Egypt’s vote on a contentious draft constitution has resigned citing health problems, while critics believe the resignation was prompted by widespread irregularities.

Zaghloul el-Balshi, the secretary general of the election committee, attributed his resignation to “a sudden health crisis”, according to a copy of a letter he sent to the committee on Wednesday that was published by several Egyptian dailies including the privately owned el-Watan.

Relatives told local Egyptian media that el-Balshi had undergone eye surgery.

“The effort I put in over the past period has caused a sudden health crisis,” the letter of resignation read. “As you know, it is impossible to carry out my mission with this health condition,” it added.

Critics, however, believe the resignation was prompted by reports of widespread irregularities.

“The violations were blatant, and he couldn’t bear more, so he resigned. Don’t believe what is said about his health condition,” Hossam Eissa, professor of law in Ain Shams University and a leading opposition member, said.

“Half of the people will not recognise this constitution.”

In an interview with daily al-Masry al-Youm, a senior member of the committee, Mahmoud Abu-Shousha, warned the opposition “not to exploit the sickness of the man and describe his resignation as caused by what they consider violations in the first round”. Egypt’s Justice Ministry has ordered an investigation into allegations.

Prosecutor general

Meanwhile, the country’s prosecutor general has withdrawn his resignation, first issued on Monday.

Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah told reporters he initially submitted his resignation under pressure from prosecutors holding a sit-in in front of his office.

Those officials accused him of pressuring a judge not to release some 130 anti-Morsi protesters taken into custody this month following clashes with Muslim Brotherhood members. The December 5 violence was one of the most tense moments Egypt has witnessed in recent weeks.

Charter controversy

Many of the country’s judges boycotted overseeing the constitutional referendum, though the law requires that each polling station must be supervised by a judge.

The latest branch of the judiciary to boycott is the administrative prosecution union. They are protesting what they called the “abduction” of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which the Muslim Brotherhood accused of conspiring against the referendum.

Brotherhood supporters held a sit-in for weeks to prevent members from convening.

The run-up to the two-stage referendum vote on the constitution has been marked by often violent protests in which at least eight people have died.

Morsi and his backers say the constitution is needed to advance Egypt’s transition from decades of military-backed autocratic rule.

Opponents say It is tailored to serve Islamic parties and ignores the rights of women and of minorities, including 10 percent of Egyptians who are Christian.

The first day of voting last weekend resulted in a 57 percent vote in favour of the draft basic law, according to official media.

The final stage on Saturday is expected to endorse that result as it covers parts of Egypt, particularly rural areas, thought more sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Source: News Agencies