William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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EGYPT DESCENDS – AT 10:50 A.M. ET:  Egypt held the second, final round of voting on its new Constitution yesterday.  As expected, the Islamists have won, and a new, Sharia-based Constitution now goes into effect.  Hey, why study history when you can live in the tenth century right now?  From AP:

CAIRO – Egypt's opposition called Sunday for an investigation into allegations of vote fraud in the referendum on a deeply divisive Islamist-backed constitution after the Muslim Brotherhood, the main group backing the charter, claimed it passed with a 64 percent "yes" vote.

Official results have not been released yet and are expected on Monday. If the unofficial numbers are confirmed, it will be a victory for Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who is from the Brotherhood.

But for many Egyptians, especially the tens of millions who live in extreme poverty, the results are unlikely to bring a hoped for end to the turmoil that has roiled their country for nearly two years since the uprising that ousted authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.

The opposition allegations look likely to prolong the struggle that has exploded in deadly street violence at times over the past month, ensuring that stability will remain elusive.

"The referendum is not the end game. It is only a battle in this long struggle for the future of Egypt," said the National Salvation Front, the main opposition group. "We will not allow a change to the identity of Egypt or the return of the age of tyranny."

The opposition claims the new constitution seeks to enshrine Islamic rule in Egypt and accuses the Islamists of trying to monopolize power.

Critics say it does not sufficiently protect the rights of women and minority groups and empowers Muslim clerics by giving them a say over legislation. Some articles were also seen as tailored to get rid of Islamists' enemies and undermine the freedom of labor unions.

The opposition front said it filed complaints to the country's top prosecutor and the election commission asking for an investigation.

COMMENT:  Of course, we wish Egypt well.  Millions of Egyptians are trying to establish a democracy, which is difficult enough.  It's not made any easier when the president of the United States, who himself has something of a Muslim cultural background, pretty much openly sides with the Brotherhood.

We'll be watching to see how Secretary of State John Kerry handles the situation.  When Obama announced his selection for the post a few days ago, Kerry stood at his side and wasn't permitted to speak.  I get the feeling that's a foretaste of things to come.  Obama will say, "Go fetch," and Kerry will do what he's told.

December 23, 2012