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Egypt votes in referendum on new constitution

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-15

Egyptians queued for a second day of voting Tuesday in a referendum on a new constitution, which could set the stage for the country’s military chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to launch a presidential campaign.

It is the first vote since the military, led by Sisi, ousted former president Mohammed Morsi – the country’s first and only freely elected leader – in July.

At least eight people were killed Monday in confrontations between Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters and police, official sources said. Two small bombs went off, one in the capital Cairo and one in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, injuring no one.

The Brotherhood, an Islamist movement that dominated Egyptian politics until Morsi’s overthrow in July, is boycotting the referendum and has called for protests against the vote. Much of the Islamist language that had been written into the constitution while Morsi was still president has been removed. The new text also grants greater powers to the army.

The constitution, however, is expected to pass easily, backed by many Egyptians who staged mass protests against Morsi and the Brotherhood before his removal.

A divided country

The run-up to the vote was marred by a crackdown on Morsi's supporters and arrests of activists who campaigned for a "no" vote.

Many Islamists revile Sisi as the man who overthrew the country's first freely elected and civilian president, but the general is adored by the millions who took to the streets in July to demand Morsi's resignation.

The capital has been festooned with banners urging Egyptians to back the new constitution, often featuring military motifs such as a general's hat, an allusion to Sisi.

Sisi is widely expected to run for president, and has said he would stand if he felt there was "popular demand," state media reported this week.

The authorities, however, are worried a low turnout would empower their Islamist opponents and cast further doubts on their legitimacy, analysts say.

"Prove to the world that what happened was a popular revolution," Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said during a visit to a polling station.

Backers of the constitution are hoping it will receive the support of at least 70 percent of the votes cast.

Morsi's constitution passed with 64 percent of the vote, but on a turnout of barely 33 percent of the country's 53 million voters. Since Morsi's ouster, at least 1,000 people have been killed, most of them Islamists, and thousands more detained.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2014-01-15

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