Muslim Brotherhood Warned Ahead of Egypt Referendum
Egypt's security chief on Monday warned supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi that troops will use unprecedented force against anyone attempting to disrupt voting in a referendum on a new draft constitution.
"I am telling them, they will be faced with force, decisiveness and strength never seen before," interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim said on state TV on Monday, according to The Associated Press (AP).
"Everyone rest assured, we are watching your back," he stressed.
Authorities consider the draft charter to be a milestone in a military-backed transitional road map put in place after Morsi was overthrown in July.
State television showed Ibrahim on Monday inspecting some of the 350,000 police and army personnel, including special forces and paratroopers backed by armored vehicles and helicopters, currently being deployed to streets across the country to secure the polls and encourage a high turnout.
Hundreds of Egyptians have been killed by security forces while protesting against the removal of Morsi.
The January 14-15 vote provides the country's increasingly popular military chief, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with a first electoral test since he led Morsi’s ouster.
A comfortable "yes" vote and a respectable turnout would be seen as bestowing legitimacy, while undermining the Islamists' argument that Morsi remains the nation's elected president.
Sisi said last week he would run for president if the people demand it and the military supports him.
An official close to the general said that Sisi has not made up his mind but feels he "would not have the luxury or choice" to stand aside in the election if there is a palpable demand for him to run in the poll.
Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which fell from power and is now branded a terrorist group, has called for a boycott of the vote.
In its latest statement, a Brotherhood-led alliance said, according to AP, "The blood of Egyptians is not a ladder to take over the seat of the kidnapped president."
Regarding whether to vote "yes" or "no" on the document, it added, "The boycott is the only way."
The revised charter preserves the military’s wide-ranging powers, including the ability to try civilians in certain cases. This has angered secular groups that backed the military in ousting Morsi.
Other articles include one stipulating that Islamic Sharia law will be the main source of legislation, as was also the case during the regime of toppled ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Another main article of the new charter forbids the formation of religious parties or parties based on religious grounds.
The already tense situation in Egypt has deteriorated since the interim government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terror organization, sparking new tensions between the military and the Brotherhood's supporters.
The government has renewed its wide-ranging crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters since the group was designated as a terrorist organization.
The terror designation came a day after a massive suicide car bombing in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura killed 16 people and wounded more than 100. A Salafi group claimed responsibility for the attack, but the interim government says there is a connection between the Muslim Brotherhood and the ongoing terrorist attacks in Egypt.