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Egyptian court gives vote to police, army

| Sunday, May 26, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

CAIRO — Egyptian Islamists and former members of the nation's military voiced concern on Sunday about the potential pitfalls stemming from a decision by the country's top constitutional court that would allow members of the armed forces and police to vote in the nation's elections.

Egypt's army and police barred soldiers, conscripts and members of the security forces from voting while in the service. The ban, which was written into law in 1976, was widely seen as a move designed to keep both the military and the security agencies out of politics — despite the fact that the country was run by former generals.

The Supreme Constitutional Court said on Saturday the ban violated the country's new constitution, which stipulates that all citizens have the right to vote.

The court shot down 12 other articles of the election laws drafted by Egypt's Islamist-led legislature, saying they too went against the charter.

Human rights groups and some in Egypt's secular opposition welcomed the decision, saying that in Egypt's nascent democracy the right to vote should be extended to all Egyptians. Islamists and former members of the military, however, expressed fears that the decision risks forcing the nation's highly polarized politics into the armed forces.

“This is a threat to national security. Divisions in the streets will be reflected in the military — the sectarianism, the partisanship,” said Hossam Sweilam, a retired general who served in the military for more than 30 years.

The Brotherhood, winner of both the parliamentary and presidential elections that followed the country's 2011 uprising, and its fellow Islamist groups pushed back against the decision, which would add more than 1 million votes to Egypt's 50 million registered voters.

Some in Egypt's secular opposition praised the ruling, while cautioning that safeguards need to be put in place to ensure the police and military are not abused by political powers in the election process.

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