Egyptians use their democratic freedom

The constitutional referendum reveals growing democratic maturity despite all the problems with the process, a commentator says. Other topics include the death of a deaf teenager and Kuwait's future.

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Despite Morsi's mistakes, holding a referendum is a big step towards democracy for Egyptians

As people lined up in 10 provinces yesterday in first-round voting on Egypt's new constitution, the whole population should be reminded, well before the results are announced, that the outcome - whether it's a yes or a no - is a victory for the democratic practice, commented Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi.

The political tensions and violence of the past three weeks have mostly subsided since the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, backed down on its decision to boycott the vote and instead called upon its supporters to vote no.

Amr Moussa, the head of the Congress Party and a prominent figure in the NSF, told Al Jazeera recently that President Mohammed Morsi is Egypt's legitimate leader and that the country cannot endure another presidential election, given its high political and financial toll, the editor reported.

Indeed, the opposition's move to take part in the constitution vote is "laudable" and is by no means an embarrassing concession - quite the contrary.

"Participation, even with the intent of casting a 'no' ballot, is a civilised, appropriate, democratic decision. On the other hand, rejecting the draft constitution in its entirety, due to reservations about non-essential articles, would only have widened existing rifts and led the country into a dark tunnel," the editor said.

Sure, the opposition is worried about the integrity of the process and the results of the referendum, given that the voting is split into two rounds after Egypt's judges' association refused to oversee the process.

But it appears that the 7,000-plus judges who have agreed to monitor polling stations will be enough to guarantee transparency, after it was decided that the voting will be conducted in two phases, with the second round next week.

"The success of the referendum - which is likely - should not be received as a defeat for the opposition or a victory for the president," the editor argued.

"It would rather be a victory for the Egyptian people, a victory of reason and good judgement, a victory of a strong-willed majority determined to avert … the spectres of a civil war that loomed over Egypt in recent weeks."

Undeniably, Mr Morsi has made some big mistakes, as when he issued a now-infamous decree making his decisions unchallengeable. But he has consistently tried to make amends, the editor said.

For their part, the opposition forces, through a combination of resolve and goodwill, have taught the Egyptian presidency that the Muslim Brotherhood cannot, and must not, lead the country alone, without involving other political and social segments in the process.

This is a workable middle ground, the editor noted in conclusion.

Deaf Palestinian teen killed on his birthday

"Last Wednesday was not just a random day in the life of Mohammed Salaymeh. It was the 17th birthday of this deaf young Palestinian," columnist Mohamed Obeid wrote in yesterday's edition of the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

"The young man wanted to celebrate with friends in his native Hebron, a city that sits under the bruising weight of occupation," the writer went on.

"It was actually quite a special day for him, one that will never repeat itself for him, a day when his birthday fell on 12/12/12," the columnist continued.

"But he couldn't have known that the steps he was taking on his way to buy a cake for the party were going to be his last … His day of birth would become his day of martyrdom."

Six bullets fired by an Israeli border policewoman penetrated the 17-year-old's body.

Immediately afterwards, the usual deluge of false pretexts and lies came down crashing, with the Israeli side claiming that the Palestinian teenager was trying to attack Israeli soldiers in one of the city's streets.

"As if he could have if he had wanted to," the writer said. "As if he were the one armed to the teeth, and they were the proverbial peace doves."

Israelis soldiers claimed they were acting in self-defence.

Sure, and certainly one needs six gunshots to neutralise a suspected attacker.

Compromise is only way forward in Kuwait

The results of Kuwaiti elections were announced earlier this month, yet the political scene remains almost as blurry as before the elections, wrote Dr Ali Al Tarrah, Kuwait's permanent delegate to the Unesco, in the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad yesterday.

"No one in Kuwait disagrees about the fact that the country is going through an enduring crisis, with the government, the parliament and the political forces admitting that the situation is escalating," he wrote.

While everyone is looking for a way out of the impasse, compromise is proving to be a rare currency, he added. "Each camp wants to make gains without consideration for the losses of the other camp."

As Saudi commentator Abdullah Al Oteibi noted in a column last October, the chronic political malfunction in Kuwait lies in the following Catch 22: when Kuwaitis vote for a parliamentary block that is aligned with the ruling elite, a cabinet is formed and projects are passed without a hitch - and often without due process. When voters elect the opposition, the Emir simply issues a decree forming an independent cabinet, leaving out the opposition.

Dr Al Tarrah notes that without concessions from both sides, the country will not go forward.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi