Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on constitutional changes, paving the way for parliamentary and presidential elections later in the year. More than 14 million voters, or 77.2 percent of those who voted, approved the constitutional amendments. Over 40 percent of eligible Egyptian voters turned out to cast their ballots.
The referendum is considered an important step in Egypt's transition toward democracy. It included several constitutional amendments proposed by a panel appointed by the military, which has been leading Egypt since last month's ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The new amendments provide presidential candidates three ways to appear on the ballot: nomination by a party with at least one parliamentary seat, endorsement by 30 members of the parliament, or by receiving 30,000 signatures of citizens eligible to vote. The president is now limited to serving two four-year terms, and he is obligated to appoint at least one vice president. In addition, the judiciary will be returned to active supervision of elections and will be the final arbiter of legal challenges to the elections.
The United States is encouraged by the successful running of the constitutional referendum. "Egyptians," said U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, "turned out in unprecedented numbers; by and large, they were able to vote freely, and the vote was conducted in a peaceful, orderly fashion. It's a really important achievement. Seeing so many Egyptians exercise their newly won freedom is cause for optimism, and it will provide a foundation for further progress as the Egyptians continue to build a democratic future."
The United States will continue to support Egypt as it lays the foundation for parliamentary and presidential elections. As Secretary Clinton told the people of Egypt: "This moment of history belongs to you ... this is your achievement and you broke barriers and overcame obstacles to pursue the dream of democracy, and the United States and President Obama and I will stand with you as you make this journey."