Nearly all in 2009 said they would in theory support freedom of speech as a constitutional right
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As Egypt's constitutional reform committee works to craft the legal framework for free and transparent presidential elections later this year, Gallup data show fewer than 3 in 10 Egyptians were confident in the honesty of elections in the country before the end of the Mubarak regime.
Egypt's recent election history has been mixed. Opposition groups made significant gains in 2005 that left one-fifth of the Egyptian parliament in the hands of candidates associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's most organized opposition movement at the time. But the 2010 elections that resulted in a landslide victory for Mubarak's National Democratic Party were mired with widespread fraud allegations.
While the current constitutional committee's focus -- ahead of the approaching deadline to amend the constitution -- is election reform, guaranteeing personal freedoms will likely remain a priority for Egyptians. In the coming pre-election months, the legal and political atmosphere regarding such freedoms will likely serve as a litmus test for Egyptians' confidence in the current military rulers' stated intentions to quickly move the country to democratic civilian rule.
When Gallup asked Egyptians in 2009, hypothetically, about the inclusion of various freedoms in a new country's constitution, nearly all Egyptians (96%) said they would "probably agree" with the inclusion of free speech as a guaranteed right in a new country's constitution. A majority of them (75%) also said they would probably agree with constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of assembly (52%) or the right to congregate for any reason or in support of any cause.
As protesters spark uprisings in neighboring Libya as well as Yemen, Bahrain, and other Arab countries, leaders and residents across the Arab world will closely watch what happens in Egypt's post-revolution era. While the transitional government's ability to institute appropriate reforms in time for new presidential elections toward the end of 2011 remains to be seen, the committee's initial recommendations, and to what degree they are enforced, will be the first crucial steps toward widespread hope for political reform. Egyptians' lack of confidence in the honesty of elections in previous years highlights the need for quick constitutional guarantees to set the stage for free and transparent elections. The high priority Egyptians put on freedom of speech and religion demonstrates a clear desire for a more politically vibrant and pluralistic future.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults each year, aged 15 and older, conducted in March 2009 and September and October 2010 in Egypt. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3.5 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.