Saturday, December 22, 2012

Egypt Votes in Second Phase of National Referendum on Draft Constitution

Hours left in final phase of Egypt's constitution vote

Mostafa Ali, Dina Samak, Randa Ali, Salma Shukrallah, Bel Trew, Sherif Tarek, Yasmine Fathy, Saturday 22 Dec 2012
Ahram Online

Seventeen governorates head to polling stations Saturday to vote on Egypt's contentious draft constitution; observers record a number of electoral violations

20:00 A statement released by the National Salvation Front members in the governorate of Ismailia on the Suez Canal announced their delegates who were monitoring the constitution referendum in the afternoon withdrew to object to what they described as "massive violations."

According to the statement violations included the postponement of the opening of some polling stations, directing voters by members of both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, non-cooperation of judges with monitors, and refusal by judges to receive official complaints.

The statement further accused Judge Mohamed El-Gizawi, the head of station 10 in Al-Safa preparatory school, of assaulting Mai Shama who was monitoring on behalf of a rights group.

19:45 Reporting from Dokki’s Riad El-Atfal school polling station on Tahrir Street, Ahram Online’s Zeinab El-Gundy says the supervising Judge went to perform the night prayers and closed the station for about ten minutes.

Sayed, a factory worker in his late fifties, says he voted 'No' to the draft constitution because he believes the Muslim Brotherhood's policies have only done harm to the country.

Maher El-Ghareeb, a researcher at the ministry of finance, says he will vote against the draft constitution because several articles were too vague and incomprehensible.

19:25 Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) executive board member Mohamed Gamal Heshmat stated on his party’s website that the turnout rate is high. Heshmat complained that rights groups and monitors are “falsely” creating problems in an attempt to taint the image of the refrendum. Heshmat demanded that the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) puts an end to such actions by banning rights groups from monitoring. He further demanded the NCHR bans the work and presence of all such groups in Egypt completely.

19:00 Ahram Online’s reporter Zeinab El-Gundy at the Gamal Abdel-Nasser polling station in Dokki spoke to a number of voters with conflicting views on the draft.

A Cairo University engineering professor, who refused to reveal his identity, says he will vote for the constitution draft despite the fact that he does not approve of all articles.

“It is not the best constitution but it gives us the right to object to any given article in the parliament...the fact that parliament can amend articles in the constitution can help us later change anything we don't like but, now, Egypt needs stability.”

Emad El-Azhary, a man in his late fifties, will vote against the draft constitution. Still, El-Azhary believes the electoral results will be a majority of a ‘yes’ vote at the end of the day. “The 'No' vote was higher in the first round but the results were changed,” he said suggesting that the second round will not be any different.

Karim Shawqy, a man in his mid 30s and owner of a tourism company, will also vote against the constitution as he believes the constituent assembly which drafted it was not representative.

Zeinab Mohamed, a housewife in her 20s plans to vote ‘No’ not necessarily because she disagrees with the draft but, rather, because she opposes the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. “It is not about the constitution being bad, it is because the drafting process was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood,” explained Zeinab who added that if the constitution passed "the Muslim Brotherhood will rule everything in the country."

18:35 The opposition Socialist Popular Alliance Party released a statement alleging that three polling stations in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena, which have a Coptic majority of registered voters, were closed for long hours during the voting process or the vote-process was inexplicably slowed down.

The polling stations in question are station 81 of Nagaa Hamadi’s Khaled Ibn El-Waleed School, Salam School station and station 33 of the Shahid Mostafa Negsy school in Markaz Qus. The Markaz Qus station, according to the party, had not opened to voters as of 4pm.

18:20 Standing in a queue outside Ahmed Zuweil school in the working class district of Imbaba was Anas (28) and Osama (26), two life-long friends.

The two best friends told Ahram Online's reporter Nada Hussein that they have both carefully read the constitution but came out divided on their views on the draft.

"The constitution includes sufficient articles on freedoms, and it has also provided fewer powers for the president," said Anas, who voted ‘Yes’, asserting that he belongs to no political party.

"I don't like the article that says those unable citizens will be provided health services; how will we determine who are the “unable”?" Osama wondered.

Osama further complained that the constitution does not restrict the president's powers.

The two friends left the polling station together on Anas’s motorcycle.

18:00 As voters continue to cast ballots on the controversial referendum, Vice President Mahmoud Mekki announced his resignation, said the presidency in a statement released on Saturday in the early evening hours.

17:55 Scuffles erupted between supporters and opponents of the constitution draft in Upper Egypt’s Qena governorate in front of the Abdel-Moneim Riad School polling station after one person was seen directing voters to say ‘Yes’ to the new constitution, according to Ahram Arabic website. However, the opposition's National Salvation Front (NSF) reported that the scuffles were quickly contained. The NSF also said they will be filing a legal complaint against one of the judges in Qena for allegedly refusing to reveal his identification card to voters as mandated by the Supreme Electoral Commission.

17:49 The April 6 Movement released a statement accusing the Islamist current, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafist movement supporting a ‘Yes’ vote, of “committing electoral violations during the second round similar to the first round.”

“We had wished the gross violations committed by the Islamist current during the first round would seize in the second round but we were surprised to see that they would use all illegitimate means to pass the flawed constitutional project," the statement read.

Violations reported by the group include rigging votes, banning rival voters from entering polling stations, and assaulting members of the opposition movement including the April 6 movement.

17:40 Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Gundy spoke to Ensaf Abdel-Hameed, a senior citizen in her 70s, who came to the Meet Oqba school in Mohandessin, Giza to vote 'Yes'.

"My children have read the constitution well and they had no problem with it. It is time to move the country forward."

17:07 According to Al-Ahram Arabic-language website, the Muslim Brotherhood operation room in the nothern Delta governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh complains that billboards reading “No to the Brotherhood’s Constitution...No Kandahar’s Constitution,” were visible in perimeters of polling stations.

The Brotherhood also claims that a billboard reading “The Egyptian Current [headed by Nasserist Hamdeen Sabbahi]...’Yes’ to Sharia and ‘No’ to the Constitution” was seen located in front of one of the polling stations in Baltim City - Sabbahi’s hometown.

16:50 In the Giza working class district of Al-Waraq there are short queues of men to cast their vote at Mostafa Kamel School, with the queue of women relatively longer.

Ahram Online's reporter Osman El-Sharnoubi says that the school wall is dominated by remains of posters from the ‘Yes’ campaign and one ‘No’ poster.

El-Sharnoubi spoke with Mohamed Salama, a humanities student at Cairo University, as he left the polling station after casting his vote.

"I voted ‘Yes,’ because this draft constitution offers many good things, such as the right to education and health care."

Salama added that although he believes there are still unsatisfactory articles in the draft such as those related to personal liberties, those could amended later through the coming People's Assembly (lower house of parliament).

16:30 According to the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website, Ikhwan Online, an employee supervising the voting process in polling station 9 of Al-Tahrir school in Fayoum, roughly 90 km south of Cairo, was spotted urging voters to vote ‘No’ on the constitutional referendum. The Brotherhood website adds that some citizens were furious after the judge present reportedly ignored the violation.

16:05April 6 Youth Movement said five of its members have been detained after objecting to the early closure of polling stations and to Muslim Brotherhood supporters directing people to vote in favour of the constitution.

According to the group's statement, the five were detained upon the request of the judges presiding over the polling stations.

Dalia Mohamed, the only female member among the detainees, was arrested in El-Khanka district of delta governorate Qalioubiya, after the judge seized her identification card.

In Giza's middle-class district of El-Haram, three other members were detained after they complained that the polling station at the Sayeda Eisha School was closed "for no good reason." The three of them were carrying accreditation as observers at the time.

"The judges also threatened to set them up by falsely accusing them of assaulting women in the polling station," the statement added.

A judge in Wadi El-Gedid governorate reported the fifth member, Mostafa Mofadi, after he protested against Brotherhood members "directing voters."

The statement also claimed that other "Brotherhood members assaulted Mohamed Hassan El-Zeini, the coordinator of the April 6 movement, for the same reason [objecting to Brotherhood directing voters]."

The groups said one of the alleged assailants used a pen-knife against the April 6 coordinator.

15:50 There is low turnout in Red Sea governorate polling stations says state news agency MENA, with less than 10 per cent of the 234,000 eligible voters visiting the 64 polling stations.

15:45 Check out the Ahram Online gallery of today's voting in polling stations here

15:30 At the Ahmed Zuweil School polling station in Imbaba, voter Mohamed Abbas, told Ahram Online’s Nada Hussein that he is against the constitution because of a vague article that stipulates that the state has to support the “arabisation of the sciences.”

“How can we Arabise the sciences and chemistry? This will be an obstacle to our development,” he commented.

In the same station, a heated argument started after a young bearded voter said that “anyone who votes 'No' is not respectable.”

Voters accused him of being bribed with oil and sugar handouts by the Brotherhood.

15:15The voters of Egypt’s smallest village, Garet Om El-Sagheer in Egypt’s coastal Matrouh governorate, were transferred to the nearest polling station to cast their votes, according to state news agency MENA.

The village’s closest polling station is 150 km away, so the governor decided to send buses to help transport voters to and from the polls, an easy task, considering only 98 in the village are eligible to vote.

15:05Only one judge is available to monitor the Heset Melig School polling station in Menoufiya,even though there should be four, reports Ahram Online's Ekram Ibrahim. Copts waiting in line say that this is intentional in order to slow down the process.

“But I will stay here for hours. They will not deprive me of my right to vote,” voter Hany Messiah said.

15:00Back in Imbaba, at the Al-Mustaqbal School, Judge Salma Khaled, threatened to shut down the polling station after three voters entered the station with FJP ‘Yes to the constitution’ campaign cards, Ahram Online’s Nada Hussein reports.

“One of them was an old man who seemed to be really confused and handed the judge the card instead of his ID,” Hussein said. “The paper had a pro-constitution logo on it but a Brotherhood member denied that the group is distributing the cards.”

14:50 BREAKING: The Supreme Electoral Commission has extended the voting hours from 7pm to 11pm due to high voter turnout.

14:45Tamer Radwan, spokesperson of the "martyrs' families" group in the coastal governorate of Suez, revealed to Al-Ahram Arabic language website that he wrote "Down, down with the Brotherhood's rule" on his ballot paper, adding that he only turned up at the polling station of King Faisal Primary School to make a public rejection of the "Brotherhood regime."

"I wrote this in front of everyone at the polling station, which prompted an argument between me and the armed forces deployed at the station. I insisted on expressing my opinion and rejecting the Muslim Brotherhood and their Supreme Guide [Mohamed Badie] who holds the power."

14:30The constitutional referendum is “a slap in the face of all those who insulted Egyptians,” FJP deputy Essam El-Erian told Al-Ahram Arabic language website, as he cast his vote in Ahmed Zuweil School in Giza.

He slammed critics of the constitution and the polls saying they “don’t know how to practice democracy”, are “ignorant” and “don’t know this nation and how it has suffered and should not speak in its name.”

14:20Scenes heated up in El-Mostakbal School, Imbaba, reports Ahram Online’s Nada Hussein, when 15 impatient voters rushed at security and stormed into the Giza polling station, even though the station was functioning normally.

Fights broke out between the voters and the police who threatened to arrest the group if they did not vacate the area.

One of the 15 is currently being held by police inside the school, Hussein adds.

At the same voting station voter Hussein Ahmed told Ahram Online that he will vote in favour of the constitution because he wants “Egypt to move forward.”

“But I don’t like the Brotherhood and I think the FJP are thugs," Ahmed added.

14:10 After voting in Giza’s well-dressed district of Mohandiseen, former presidential candidate and National Salvation Front figure Hamdeen Sabbahi, spoke to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language website:

"Legally speaking, the front will respect the result of the referendum in all cases but politically, the front's attitude is known; we refuse the constitution that was made by a majority of Islamists.

"We wouldn't accept a constitution like that for Egypt," he added.

The constitution was drafted by an Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly that saw mass walkouts by church, liberals and leftist representatives, who disagreed with the way the national charter was being written.

14:00 Meanwhile in Menoufiya, voter Fathy Saleh told Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim that he will vote ‘Yes’.

“I don’t see any problems with the constitution. I have several copies of it and I have distributed it to friends. I also think that voting ‘Yes’ would bring stability and end the clashes that have rocked the country.”

13:55 Back in Giza's impoverished district Imbaba, Shimaa Hassan, an observer at Om El-Momenin School tells Ahram Online’s Nada Hussein that Brotherhood members are still trying to manipulate the vote.

“This time they are smarter about it. They are standing a bit further away from the polling station,” she told reporter Nada Hussein. “I sent some of my male colleagues to deal with them because I am fed up.”

13:45 Ahmed Brust, leading member of the ‘Hazemoon’ a movement supporting Salafist preacher Hazem Abu-Ismail, revealed to Al-Ahram Arabic language website that Abu-Ismail may not vote because he is against many articles in the constitution as they violate Sharia (Islamic law).

Brust said that Abu-Ismail asked his supporters not to copy his choice but instead to read the draft national charter and make their own decision.

13:25 April 6 youth movement have released their first statement on electoral violations as documented by their operations room.

They reported that Salafist Nour Party and Brotherhood FJP Party members were campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in front of some polling stations, there were instances of vote-buying and women in the full-face veil voted with ID cards of elderly people.

In Kafr El-Sheikh most polling stations did not open before 9am due to the shortage of judges. Whilein Damietta, they added, the Muslim Brotherhood and Nour party members were seen distributing money and instructing voters to vote in favour of the constitution.

13:10 Talking to reporters in Upper Egypt's Beni Suef, the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie, shrugged off allegations that he is the actual ruler of Egypt and not President Morsi, saying he would not need to queue up and cast his ballot if such widespread claims had been true.

Badie, who was voting in his hometown, pointed out that his personal office had been the victim of an arson attack recently, using the incident as another example of how he is not as powerful as many of his critics say.

President Morsi hails from the Brotherhood’s political wing the Freedom and Justice Party, many critics charge that Badie - the highest authority of the Islamic group - is actually ruling Egypt from behind-the-scenes.

"Voting 'Yes' will ensure Egypt enters a new era under an umbrella of justice and freedom that hasn't been witnessed in decades," Badie said.

13:05 Moving south to Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena in the village of Hew, voters have blocked the Naga Hamadi Highway after judges failed to open the polling stations on time, says Ahram Online correspondent Mahmoud El-Dessouky.

In the Khuzam El-Gedida in the city of Qous, also in Qena, a judge reportedly kicked a Brotherhood member out of the polling station after several voters complained that he was asking them to vote ‘Yes.’

Meanwhile no women have voted in Naga El-Dar village, in the city of Deshna, reports El-Dessouky, “because of the conservative culture of the area."

In addition, El-Dessouky said, several voting stations have yet to open their doors across the governorate - a full four hours after polls were set to begin.

13:00 Meanwhile in Port Said, Suez Canal’s major city, Ahram Online’s Keidr Khodeir noted several long queues “winding around the block all over the city.”

“No violations or problems hindering the voting have been reported or spotted so far … Notably, there are more female voters than men at polling stations.”

Some voters refused to to talk to Khodeir about their choice, saying the result will be known to the public by the end of the referendum.

12:45 Returning to Giza, two women in the full-face veil at the Om El-Abtal School in Haram tell Ahram Online’s Nada Hussein why they are voting ‘Yes’.

“ I was widowed three months ago, and so appreciate that the constitution gives widows pensions. This is important for me because I can’t find a job, people don’t like to hire munaqibas [women who wear the full face veil],” said one of the women who wished to remain anonymous.

Her friend commented that the reason felool (remnants of the old regime) are fighting the constitution is that it gives more rights to the poor than the rich and “that makes them worry about their lifestyles.”

She also accused the US and Israel of backing the opposition because they are not happy that President Morsi brokered a ceasefire deal in Gaza.The duo added that they have avoided talking about the constitution with their Christian neighbours because they "don’t want to start a fight."

12:30 Back in the Nile Delta, a Menoufiya judge at the Siid Almeligi School told Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim that those running the polling stations are working at full capacity with an average of two voters per minute casting their ballot.

Judge Hesham Abdel Salam said that the pressurised working environment often results in mistakes being made.

“We do not violate the rules on purpose but sometimes the tight conditions means that errors are made. The Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) has overburdened the judges. They make us work for 18 hours on the days of the referendum."

12:00 The central operations room of the National Council for Human Rights (NHCR) says it has received 40 violations in the first three hours of voting . The central monitoring office is keeping tabs on polling in the governorates of Port Said, Ismailya, Kafr El-Sheikh, Sohag, Qena and Luxor.

The violations NHCR recorded, according to ONA news agency, include late opening of polling stations in the canal city of Port Said at Safia Zagloul Preparatory School, Tersa School in Giza and Giza'simprovised district of Beau Lac El-Dakrour where two more stations opened their doors half an hour late at El-Shorouk Preparatory School.

The agency also reported that the NCHR observers were prevented from entering a Kafr El-Sheikh polling station by the judge because they did not have photos on their accreditation cards.

The NCHR observers, according to ONA news agency, spotted campaigners from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party helping voters get their voting numbers, directing them to their respective polling stations and encouraging them to vote for the constitution.

11:45 Moving to an industrial area of middle-class Giza district 6 October City, driver Qutb Saber, 44, chats to Ahram Online’s Lina El-Wardani about why he voted yes.

“I read the constitution and I particularly like the section on freedoms and personal rights, particularly as the police cannot bother us like they used to. We never had a voice before and no matter how bad President Morsi is, he can never be as bad as Hosni Mubarak, we need to give Morsi and his government a chance to work and deliver his promises.”

11:25 Meanwhile in Giza’s middle-class district Haram, home of the pyramids, Ahram Online’s Nada Hussein chats to prominent activist and Cairo University professor Laila Soueif, as she queues to vote at the Om El-Abtal School polling station.

“I always vote here and this station always suffers from a lack of organisation. The country is now divided between two heavyweight groups (the Islamists and the opposition coalition the National Salvation Front). They are both powerful and capable of mobilising supporters.”

“So either we have a civil war,” she jokingly added, “or we have election and try to reach a consensus.”

11:15 Egypt Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has voted in a polling station in Giza's middle-class district of Dokki.

According to Al-Ahram's Arabic-language website, he was keen to take his turn in the queue as the voters welcomed him in a friendly manner.

He had earlier been spotted touring several polling stations in Giza governorate, including the Orman Preparatory and Giza Secondary Schools.

11:05 Head of the Freedom Justice and Party Saad El-Katatni cast his ballot at Gil 2000 School in the Cairo suburb Six of October City to the chants of “down with the rule of the [Brotherhood Supreme] Guide,” from a number of waiting voters.

The chant refers to a criticism by the opposition that the country is being governed by the Muslim Brotherhood not President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Islamist organisation.

According to same report on Al-Ahram's Arabic-language website, El-Katatni said he expects the constitution to be passed.

11:00 According to Ahram Online photographer, Mai Shaheen, photographers have been banned from entering the polling station in the Abu Bakr School in Dokki district, Giza governorate.

“They told us that we need permits, which did not happen during the first phase of the referendum,” she said.

10:48On the theme of electoral violations, former presidential candidate Amr Moussa’s Egyptian Conference Party has released its first report concerning illegal activity at the polling stations.

The most prominent violations they highlighted are the presence of campaign posters inside the polling stations and delayed opening of several stations.

10:45Strange goings-on have been reported in the well-heeled district of Sheikh Zayed in the Giza governorate.

Egyptian journalist Salma El-Wardani tweets that she saw Freedom and Justice Party member Ali Farag, who was at the Sheikh Zayed secondary school for girls as an elections observer for the state-run National Human Rights Council, parking his 4-wheel drive car decorated with a huge banner saying “vote yes for the constitution” in front of the polling station.

10:30Moving back to Giza, Ahram Online’s Nada Hussein at the Om El-Abtal School in the working class district of Haram, reports rowdy scenes as voters complain about the long queues and lack of organisation at the overcrowded womens’ polling station.

In the queues Nadia Youssef, a voter, shared her thoughts with Ahram Online.

“The constitution looked fine when I first read it but then I began to have doubts about it,” Youssef says, “The public response won’t be that effective because President Morsi is behaving like he already got a Yes vote. He is already hiring new Shura Council [upper house of parliament] members, for example.”

Egyptian state news agency MENA reported Friday that President Morsi had decided on 90 new members of the Shura Council, the list has yet to be released.

10:15 The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Badie has now voted in his hometown of Beni Suef, Upper Egypt.

According to Al-Ahram Arabic language website, while queueing to cast his ballot Badie said that judges had already proven their loyalty to Egypt and it is "not right" to ask them to prove their identity.

Voters and election monitors have been checking IDs of members of the judiciary supervising polling stations as during the first phase of the referendum there were reports of people posing as fake judges.

10:00Ahram Online's Eman Al-Hawary, based in the Upper Egyptian governorate Luxor, says the turnout of voters in the southern touristic city is "moderate" after nearly two hours of the official polling start.

"More than 20 polling stations in Luxor are still closed due to the delay of the judges, which seems to be commonplace in many other cities," she added.

09:55Shifting North to the coastal governorate of Beheira, there is a high turnout across its 916 polling stations, says Al-Ahram’s Arabic language website. However, 20 polling stations opened their doors later than scheduled.

09:45 Egyptian Prime Hisham Qandil has been spotted touring several polling stations in Giza governorate, including the Orman Preparatory and Giza Secondary Schools.

Qandil called on Egyptians to cast their ballots in the referendum, reports Al-Ahram’s Arabic language-website, saying it is a national duty to participate, whether a voter opts for 'Yes' or 'No'.

He also commended personnel of the armed forces and police deployed to secure polling stations.

09:25Back in Giza governorate, near the capital, Al-Ahram reports that hundreds of voters, both men and women, are already at the polling stations in the working class district of Imbaba. Women reportedly showed up as early as 7am to ensure they can cast their ballot.

Meanwhile in Menoufiya, despite a delay in opening certain polling stations, Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim also reports a high voter turnout, adding that so far the voting process appears to be going smoothly.

09:20Moving back to Menoufiya, voting is off to a rocky start: 37 polling stations have yet to open their doors because the judges assigned to monitor the polls are late, reports Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website.

09:15 Egypt’s draft constitution is comparable to the “Mona Lisa”, said Salafist Nour Party member Said Hamad in a Qena governorate party press conference Friday, adding that legal experts had likened the national charter to the world famous work of art due to its perfection.

In a bizarre footnote to the meeting another Nour Party member Mahmoud El Hefnawy, accused opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei of wanting to build Buddhist temples in Egypt.

El-Hefnawy also added that the opposition camp was trying to “eliminate” the Islamic identity of Egypt as they are fighting over Article 2 and Article 219 of the constitution both pertaining to Islamic Sharia Law.

08:50 Moving north to Egypt’s Nile Delta, Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim reports long queues in the Menoufiya governorate.

“I was afraid to go down and vote because sometimes Muslim Brotherhood members stand outside polling stations and push voters to vote as they want but I decided to come here and say no anyway,” says Omnia Mahmoud, 18, student who is voting for the first time. Her family opted for Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq in the presidential elections.

“There is a high potential of a no vote in this governorate as the voting block chose Shafiq,” reports Ibrahim, “to give you a bit of background on the governorate Menouiya has 2 million registered voters and the main industry is agriculture.”

08:30Polling stations are already very busy, reports Ahram Online journalist Adel Abdel-Latif in Giza governorate adjacent to Cairo.

At Om El-Moemenin girls school in the working class district of Omrania,the lines stretch over a kilometre you cannot see the end, Ahram Online's Abdel-Latif says adding it was the longest voter queue he had ever seen. This has been spotted at three different schools in the Giza district, even though polling stations only opened 45 minutes ago.

08:15April 6 youth movement (Democratic Front) announced they have set up an operations room to document instances of electoral violations during the second stage of the referendum, and will publise

The Socialist Popular Alliance are also running an electoral violations centre, with a reported 600 observers at the polling stations keeping an eye on proceedings. They say they will publish regular reports of their findings as the day continues.

This comes after a number of prominent human rights groups called for a re-run of the first phase of Egypt's constitutional referendum due to thousands of reported violations.

These include unsupervised polling stations, “fake” judges overseeing the voting, Freedom and Justice Party members being allowed into polling stations to encourage people to vote ‘yes’, ballot box stuffing and pre-stamped ballot papers.

08:00 Good morning, we open our live coverage of the final phase of Egypt's constitutional referendum. Polling stations across 17 governorates are opening their doors to the estimated 25.5 million voters who will vote today. For more analysis on the expected outcome of today's polls read this

Millions of Egyptians across 17 governorates will vote in the second and final phase of the country’s constitutional referendum Saturday against the backdrop of further violence as fierce clashes broke out the day before between rival protest groups in Alexandria, leaving dozens injured.

Street battles began in Egypt’s second city when groups against the draft national charter clashed with the thousands who had gathered at Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in support of the referendum and Sharia Law.

Alexandria voted in the first round of the referendum, 17governorates will vote Saturday including Port Said, Suez, Ismailia, Qalioubiya, Menoufiya, Damietta, Kafr El-Sheikh, Beheira, Giza, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Minya, Luxor, Qena, Marsa Matruh, the Red Sea and the New Valley.

Following the results of the first round which saw 57 per cent vote in favour of the draft constitution, many analysts believe the second phase will also be a “yes”.

Out of the 17 voting, the majority of them are rural areas, with Muslim Brotherhood maintaining a sizeable support base in agricultural governorates such as Beheira, Kafr El-Sheikh, Damietta, Minya, Beni Suef and Fayoum.

Only three of the governorates heading to the polling stations Saturday voted overwhelmingly against President Mohamed Morsi in the presidential elections.

The first stage was marred by documented instances of electoral violations, including missing judges, “fake” judges supervising polling stations, pre-stamped ballot papers, deliberate delays at polling stations and ballot box stuffing, leading civil society groups and the opposition coalition National Salvation Front to call for a re-run.

The Cairo Administrative Court is currently investigating a legal complaint that the referendum is void as it was held across two phases, a week apart.

The issue of judicial supervision also continues to be a point of contention. The Judges’ Club, which boycotted the first stage, will not participate in the second phase it confirmed, adding that more numbers have joined their ranks, meaning the lack of supervision will open the “doors for large-scale rigging.”

Around 1,400 State Council judges and the Club of Administrative Prosecutors said they would also not monitor the polls.

Authorities maintain that the polling stations will be correctly supervised.

The Constituent Assembly, tasked with writing the constitution, held dialogue discussions about the contentious draft charter Friday, in a bid to come to an agreement on some of the more contentious articles. However the opposition forces boycotted the meeting saying it did not matter as the referendum was already underway.

There have been mass protests and violent clashes on the Egypt’s streets ever since President Mohamed Morsi released a contentious Constitutional Declaration 22 November, immunising his own decrees and the constitution-drafting body. Egypt’s national charter was then hastily drafted by an Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly, passed by the president and put to referendum, speaking mass uproar.

With neither side backing down there are few signs that Egypt’s deepening political crisis will be resolved.

No comments: