Middle East expert Walid Phares says this weekend’s vote on a new Egyptian constitution is part of a broader strategy by President Mohammed Morsi to transform the country into a “totalitarian Islamist state” like Iran.
“They forced the referendum on Egyptians without judges, monitors, and under the pressure of their street militias,” explained Phares, an advisor to the anti-Terrorism Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, said in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.
“That’s what the forces of civil society are seeing today. Egypt is divided between the Islamists and the rest of the country.”
Following the first round of a two-stage referendum, Egyptians narrowly voted in favor of a constitution shaped by Islamists but opposed by other groups who fear it will divide the Arab world’s biggest nation, according to officials in rival camps speaking to the Associated Press.
As of late Sunday afternoon, Phares said that the results showed an approval margin of nearly 60 percent for the referendum, which he said may be even higher when all the votes are counted.
“The opposition, including 80 percent of Egypt’s judges and elections bureaucracies have accused the Muslim Brotherhood of rigging the process,” asserted Phares, who served as a senior advisor on foreign policy to the Romney campaign.
The decades-old Brotherhood is the region’s largest and best-known fundamentalist Islamic organization, one that gave rise over the years to such terrerorist organizations as al-Qaida and Islamic Jihad.
“For example large areas known to be liberals saw their ballot boxes being removed, their votes canceled,” said Phares. And he said that Egypt’s separate voting centers for women were staffed primarily by Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
“The bottom line is that the results of the referendum in Alexandria, Cairo, and major cities has been in favor of Morsi and his constitution,” said Phares, who authored “The Coming Revolution.” “Technically, the measure is passing, despite the fierce opposition by seculars and liberals.”
He added that while the opposition to the measure is significant, the Muslim Brotherhood has government resources at its disposal.
He said that the Brotherhood “outmaneuvered” the opposition by dividing them and then weakening the military before seizing the parliament and presidency during the country’s recent elections.
“Aside from the Brotherhood and their Salafi allies, most Egyptian political and social forces opposed the referendum including liberals, socialists, conservative Wafd supporters, secular women, liberal youth, Copts,” said Phares, who is also a Newsmax contributor. “Socially most labor, peasantry, and middle class also opposed the Islamist constitution.”
He said that the second phase of the referendum to be held next week will likely be dominated by the brotherhood since the opposition has fewer resources to canvass in remote towns and villages
“Because of years of activism within the mosques, the brotherhood can rely on a well-structured system of mobilization that begins in the pulpits,” Phares said.
“The penetration of mosques by the Islamists over decades, at the disadvantage of moderate Muslims, is paying off now. It was known that the Islamists would win the referendum, because of the control by Morsi of the institutions, the division of the opposition — and one must note — the passive role of the U.S. administration in criticizing the brotherhood’s takeover. Egyptian democracy forces today openly accuse the Obama Administration of helping the Brotherhood take over the country.”