|Pope Tawadros II, the new pope of the|
Coptic Orthodox church casts his vote
in a referendum on the new Egyptian
constitution, at a polling station in
Cairo December 15, 2012.
(Photo: Reuters - Amr Dalsh)
December 15, 2012
Half of Egypt's eligible voters are casting ballots Saturday for a controversial draft constitution that has sparked weeks of violence and protests.
Men and women are voting separately at schools in Cairo and nine other provinces. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has already cast his vote.
The rest of the country will vote next Saturday ( December 22 ). The vote has been scattered over two consecutive Saturdays due to a boycott by a majority of the judiciary, which must oversee the vote by law.
It is not clear when final results will be announced.
President Morsi's former party, the Muslim Brotherhood, supports the proposed constitution. Mr. Morsi resigned from the party when he became president earlier this year.
Members of the liberal, secular and Christian opposition say they fear the constitution will erode civil liberties because it boosts the role of Islamic law and does not mention womens' rights.
Officials say they have deployed 120,000 soldiers to protect polling stations.
Clashes broke out Friday among stone-throwing demonstrators protesting the draft constitution near a mosque in the port city of Alexandria, prompting police to fire tear gas. Medical workers say 15 people were injured.
A largely Islamic committee approved the document last month after liberal and Christian members walked out, complaining they were being ignored.
Egypt's Draft Constitution
-Limits president to two four-year terms
-Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
-Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
-Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
-Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights
Source: VOA News
The rest of the country will vote next Saturday
After three weeks of political turmoil which saw nation-wide rallies against President Morsi and fatal clashes between rival protest groups, 10 governorates vote on controversial national charter in referendum first round.
The first stage, Saturday, will include 10 governorates: Cairo, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Assiut, Sohag, Aswan, and North and South Sinai.
The number of citizens eligible for voting in this stage is estimated at 26.6 million out of a total 51.3 million.
Four of these (Cairo and the three Nile-Delta governorates of Gharbiya, Sharqiya, and Daqahliya) voted overwhelmingly against Egypt’s current Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt's run-off presidential election in June.
Alexandria, the upper-Egypt governorates of Assiut, Sohag, and Aswan, and the border governorates of North and South Sinai voted 'yes' for Morsi without a large margin from his rival Ahmed Shafiq.
The second stage, due to be held on 22 December, will include Egypt’s remaining 17 governorates, with a number of voters estimated at 24.7 million.