Egyptians vote in final round of constitution referendum

Saturday, December 22, 2012
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Cairo: Egyptians voted on Saturday in the final round of a referendum on a new constitution.

From early morning, voters were seen queuing in large numbers at polling stations.

Opponents of the new constitution say the document favors Islamist parties and ignores the rights of Christians, other minorities, and women.

President Muhammad Morsi says passing the constitution is essential if Egypt is to move toward a more democratic system.

Protests by supporters and opponents of the new constitution turned violent in Alexandria on December 21 when the two groups threw stones at each other.

Police were called in and fired tear gas to disperse the protesters. Sixty-two people, including 12 police officers, were reported injured in the violence.

Unofficial first-round results showed some 57 percent of voters cast their ballots in favor of the new constitution on December 15.

Voting is taking place on December 22 in 17 electoral districts, many of which are considered conservative. However, the close margin and the low turnout in the first round have encouraged those who oppose the document.

If the constitution is adopted, legislative elections will be held within 60 days.

The upper chamber of Egypt's parliament, the Shura Council, will have authority to pass legislation until a new parliament is convened.

If the constitution fails, an election will be held within 90 days to choose a new constitutional assembly to draft a new version.

Egypt has been divided between Islamists and secularists since the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
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