Three members of the Strong Egypt Party were arrested on Tuesday while distributing posters promoting a “no” vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum, the party announced on its official Facebook page.
The party had earlier said it would take part in the run-up to the referendum, scheduled to take place on January 14 and 15, and campaign for a “no” vote.
“When we announced our position, it was based on guarantees for the integrity of the electoral process, but now it became evident that the only allowed vote is ‘yes’, it would be futile to go to the referendum under these conditions,” Mohamed Othman, member of the party’s political bureau told Mada Masr on Wednesday.
Othman says that the three members — Ihab Abdel Kerim, Ali Mohamed Ali and Islam al-Akabawy — were arrested while hanging up “no” campaign posters in Kasr al Einy Street in downtown Cairo. He says that the arrested men were referred to the prosecution on Wednesday morning, charged with distributing posters that promote a “no” vote on the draft constitution.
Othman said that the party has faced harassment since it began working on the ground to promote its campaign against the draft constitution five days ago. Wednesday marked the first time, however, that the authorities have charged party members with campaigning against the constitution.
Last Saturday, the party’s coordinator in Gharbeya was arrested and held in custody without charge; it was only Wednesday that he was referred to the prosecution, Othman said.
He added that, because of security fears, the party has not been able to hold any public events in support of its campaign.
Even before the draft constitution was completed, television commercials and street posters campaigning for a “yes” vote began flooding the public sphere. Except for disgruntled graffiti drawn on walls, there has been almost no evidence of a “no” campaign.
In addition to the Strong Egypt Party, the April 6 Youth Movement, Revolutionary Socialists, and the Path of the Revolution Front have all announced their support for a “no” vote during the upcoming referendum.
The Ministry of Interior has listed “material against the constitution” as among confiscated materials during the recent arrests of several Muslim Brotherhood members.
In its statement, the Strong Egypt party said that the authorities are being oppressive and showing that they will only allow voices which agree with the interim government’s policies.
“While the authorities secure squares for the ‘yes’ campaign and inaugurate its conferences, they do not allow the youth of our party to integrate with the people and inform them of our opinion on the constitution,” the statement said, adding, “They arrested these young people, whose only crime is that they believed the authorities when they said that there is a democratic choice that would allow people to express their will and choice.”