William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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EGYPT VOTES, SORT OF – AT 10:51 A.M. ET:  The first round in Egypt's vote on a new constitution has been completed.  Ah, shades of Chicago.  From AP, via Fox:

Key Egyptian rights groups called Sunday for a repeat of the first round of the constitutional referendum, alleging the vote was marred by widespread violations. Islamists who back the disputed charter claimed they were in the lead with a majority of "yes" votes.

Representatives of the seven groups charged that there was insufficient supervision by judges in Saturday's vote in 10 of Egypt's 27 provinces and independent monitors were prevented from witnessing vote counts.

The representatives told a news conference that they had reports of individuals falsely identifying themselves as judges, of women prevented from voting and that members of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood were allowed inside polling stations. They also complained that some polling centers closed earlier than scheduled and that Christians were denied entry to polling stations.

"We call on the election commission to avoid these violations in the second round and repeat the first round," said a statement by the seven groups. "The vote counting took place took place in darkness," said Negad Borai, the head of one of the groups. He alleged the election commission did not investigate thousands of complaints on alleged violations and irregularities.

The second and final round of voting on the charter is planned for Saturday Dec. 22.

The vote capped a near two-year struggle over Egypt's identity since the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. The latest crisis over the charter evolved into a fight -- deadly at times -- over whether Egypt should move toward a religious state under Morsi's Brotherhood and their ultraconservative Salafi allies, or one that retains secular traditions and an Islamic character.

COMMENT:  The constitution will eventually pass.  I doubt if the protesters have the clout to get a re-run.  And notice the international silence, led by the silent U.S.  Obama, who is somewhat skeptical of real democracy, has a new best friend in Morsi.  We also note the silence of Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center makes a business of monitoring elections . 

I'd imagine the trouble in Egypt is just beginning.  The opposition is vigorous and active, but will require outside help to prevent it from being crushed, as was the Iranian opposition in 2009.  But don't look to Washington.

December 16, 2012