Al Jazeera English has created the following short guide to understanding Egypt’s upcoming constitutional referendum:
Voters in Egypt will go to the polls on Saturday to decide on a new constitution. The ballot comes at perhaps the most politically fraught moment since the revolution in January 2011.
Who drafted the new constitution?
The proposed constitution was prepared over the past few months by a 100-member constituent assembly.
Egypt has actually had two constituent assemblies this year. The first was selected in March by the elected parliament, but it was dissolved a month later by the Cairo administrative court, which ruled it “unrepresentative” because it included too few women and representatives of minority groups.
So a second assembly was chosen in June after negotiations between lawmakers and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ruled the country at the time. Seats were set aside for representatives of various groups: the Coptic Church, Al Azhar University, journalists, military officers and others.
The second assembly has also been plagued by dozens of legal challenges. Its members were again appointed by parliament, but the parliament itself was dissolved by court order in June – so lawyers argued that the assembly, too, should be closed down.
President Mohamed Morsi’s controversial decree issued on November 22 barred the courts from dissolving the assembly, and gave it time to continue its work.
How will the referendum work?
This is a simple up-or-down referendum: If a majority of voters approve of the constitution, it will go into effect.
If the constitution is rejected, then – pursuant to another decree issued by Morsi, this one on December 8 – a new assembly will be elected, by popular vote, within three months. It will have six months to draw up a new constitution, which will then face another public vote.