Divided Egypt votes on proposed new constitution

PRESS TRUST OF INDIA

Cairo, Dec 15: Egyptians today began voting on a referendum on proposed constitution that has divided the country, with President Muhammed Mursi and his Islamist supporters backing it, while liberals, moderate Muslims and Christians oppose it.
 The voting will see half of Egypt's 51 million electoral heading to ballots. The next phase will take place on December 22.
 The voting today is taking place in Cairo, Alexandria, Daqahliya, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Assiut, Sohag, Aswan, North Sinai and South Sinai.
 The run-up to the referendum saw deadly clashes between supports of the government and those against it.
 The vote on the disputed charter is seen by many experts as a choice between Egypt moving closer toward a religious state led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafi bloc, or one that retains the secular traditions with an Islamic character.
 Statements from the country's High Elections Commission say that there are 7,000-10,000 judges supervising the polling.
 This is the fifth elections Egyptians have since the January 25 revolution, the first being the referendum on March 2011 constitutional declaration, then the People's Assembly elections in November and December 2011, the Shura Council elections in January and February 2012 and the presidential elections in May and June 2012.
 Last evening, the National Salvation Front of opposition groups organised demonstrations at the presidential palace and in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square, after deciding to call on followers to vote "no" in the referendum, rather than a boycott.
 In Tahrir Square, protesters chanted, "Oh martyr we swear by your blood, another revolution anew," and "The people demand the fall of the regime".
 Pro-Mursi groups also lined up on the main roads in Cairo, holding placards that say "Yes to the constitution."
 Egypt's Constituent Assembly on November 30 in a marathon session approved the draft constitution imposing Islamic values, a move opposed by Liberals as an attempt to restrict freedom of speech and religion in the country.
 According to Egyptian state TV, the articles passed, stipulated that Islam is the religion of the state, and the principles of Sharia, or Islamic law, are the "main source of legislation".
 Mursi then decided to hold a referendum on the controversial draft constitution on December 15, a move that sparked further outrage in the country.
 Egyptians abroad, had already begun voting in the referendum on the new constitution. Voting was taking place at Egyptian embassies abroad, with more than 500,000 Egyptians expected to cast their votes in 150 countries.
 The present political turmoil began after President Mursi granted himself absolute powers through a November 22 decree that had put his decisions beyond judicial review, a move which gained him titles like "dictator" and "Pharaoh".
 Mursi tried to calm protests by annulling the decree, but decided to go ahead with the referendum.
 Mursi has also issued a new decree giving police powers to the army to beef up security ahead of tomorrow's referendum.
 Rival mass rallies held by both supporters and opponents of Mursi had become almost a daily occurrence in Cairo.
 Clashes between the two groups killed at least seven people and injured hundreds more last week.
 The crisis has necessitated a ramping up of security around the presidential palace, which has been the focal point of anti-Mursi protests.

Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sat, 15 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sun, 16 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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