Sun, Dec 23, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Egypt’s constitution seen passing in referendum

Reuters, CAIRO

Egyptians voted on a constitution drafted by Islamists yesterday in a second round of balloting expected to approve the charter that opponents say will create deeper turmoil in Egypt.

After a first round last week in which unofficial results showed 57 percent of those who voted approved the constitution, the opposition cried foul, saying a litany of alleged abuses meant the first stage of the referendum should be rerun.

However, the committee overseeing the two-stage vote said their investigations showed no major irregularities in voting on Dec. 15, which covered about half of Egypt’s 51 million eligible voters.

Islamist supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who was elected in June, say the constitution is vital to moving Egypt towars democracy two years after former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in a popular uprising. They say it will help restore the stability needed to fix an economy that is on the ropes.

If the basic law is passed, a parliamentary election will be held in about two months.

However, the opposition says the constitution is divisive and accuses Morsi of pushing through a document that favors his Islamist allies and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women.

“I’m voting ‘no’ because Egypt can’t be ruled by one faction,” said Karim Nahas, 35, a stock market broker, heading to a polling station in Giza, a province included in this round of voting, which covers parts of greater Cairo.

Polling stations opened at 8am and close at 7pm, though voting could be extended, as it was last week. Queues formed at some polling stations around the country.

Unofficial tallies are likely to emerge within hours of the close, but the referendum committee may not declare an official result for the two rounds until tomorrow, after hearing appeals.

Shahinaz Shalaby, a housewife, said she would be voting “yes” even though she disagreed with some clauses.

“We feel our voice matters,” she said, adding that a “yes” vote would not stop protests, but “then it will stabilize afterward.”

Cairo districts covered in the first round voted “no,” but overall the vote in that round was in favor.

Analysts expect another “yes” vote on Saturday because it covers rural and other areas seen as having more Islamist sympathizers. Islamists may also be able to count on many Egyptians who are simply exhausted by two years of turmoil.

However, even if it is approved, the opposition say it is a recipe for trouble since the charter has not received broad consensus backing from the population. They say the result may go in Morsi’s favor, but will not be the result of a fair vote.

“I see more unrest,” said Ahmed Said, head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party and a member of the National Salvation Front, an opposition coalition formed after Morsi expanded his powers on Nov. 22 and then pushed the constitution to a vote.

Citing what he said were “serious violations” on the first day of voting, he said anger against Morsi and his Islamist allies was growing: “People are not going to accept the way they are dealing with the situation.”

At least eight people were killed in protests outside the presidential palace in Cairo this month. Islamists and rivals clashed on Friday in the second biggest city of Alexandria, hurling stones at each other. Two buses were torched.

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