Middle East

Egypt referendum: Correspondents' round-up

An election worker checks the identification of a woman at a polling site in Cairo Image copyright AP

As Egyptians vote in a two-day referendum on a new constitution, BBC correspondents report on the mood around the country.

Marwa Amer, Shubra, north Cairo

Women started queuing at this polling station two hours before it was due to open. Outside, a car is playing nationalistic songs to encourage people to vote.

Security vehicles are roaming the streets to check the situation and also to encourage people to vote. When helicopters flew overhead, those in the streets raised flags and pictures of General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and some women ululated with joy.

We met Ibtihag Aziz, 67, after she had cast her ballot and she told us how easy it was to vote this time.

"There was a lot of respect and a welcome from everyone," she said. "I didn't have to wait long before I could vote unlike the other times."

Many voters here are elderly women and housewives.

James Reynolds, Nasr City, Cairo

"Sisi is the lion of Egypt," shouts one man in a queue of voters outside a polling station at the Workers' University in Cairo's Nasr City. The rest of the crowd behind him decides to join in.

Many of the hundreds queuing up see this referendum as a personal vote in favour of Egypt's most powerful man, armed forces chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. "Sisi, Sisi," chants a group of women at the female entrance to the polling station.

Across the road, there are several official posters showing a green tick in favour of a Yes vote. There is no sign of any No posters. The government has used a new anti-protest law to silence the No campaign.

The security forces have made their strength - and their desire for a Yes vote - clear.

Several military Chinook helicopters flew overhead. A military convoy drove outside the polling station - on the bonnet of one vehicle was a picture of Gen Sisi.

Sally Nabil, Alexandria

It has been a calm morning so far. Women started turning up at this female-only polling station in Alexandria about one hour before they opened.

Some voters were carrying the Egyptian flag while others raised pictures for Gen Sisi together with those of late Presidents Gamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat.

A poster hung across the wall of the polling station calls on voters to take part in the referendum and "act positively". The poster also reiterates that "the army, the police, and the people stand together".

However, not far from the polling station stands a huge sign supporting the constitution, in clear violation of the election rules. But nobody seems to be bothered by that.

Tuesday is a working day in Egypt, so it is mostly housewives who show up at the beginning of the day, at least until working hours come to an end.

The security presence is quite heavy, but the forces remained at a distance, keeping an eye all around the area, whether from the roofs or both inside and outside the polling stations.

They have been on high alert to foil any attempts by Islamist parties to disrupt the voting process.

The Muslim Brotherhood called it the "bloody referendum". Yet, so far the process has been relatively smooth.

Abdel Bassir Hassan, Mansoura, Delta region

There was a considerable turnout at polling stations during the first hours of the vote, although numbers are reducing as the day goes on.

Voters are carrying pictures of Gen Sisi as they file past amid heavy security.

Mansoura was the scene of an explosion targeting security headquarters three weeks ago that killed at least 16 people and injured dozens of others.

A prominent security official visiting polling stations told the BBC that any measures to impede the referendum would be dealt with firmly.

International observers are visiting polling stations in the area, and they are prepared for protests called for by the pro-Morsi National Alliance to Support Legitimacy.

Ahmed Kilany, Assiut, Upper Egypt

From the first hours of voting, numbers have been significant in the city of Assiut, although in the surrounding villages, turnout is more limited.

Voters are not carrying pictures of Gen Sisi as they are in other parts of the country; Assiut is considered one of the Islamist strongholds in Upper Egypt.

Speaking to one of those who have chosen to boycott the referendum, a man told the BBC he would not vote because he considered the committee who drafted the amendments to be unrepresentative.

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