Egypt awaits results of constitution referendum

Student protesters outside Cairo University in Giza, Egypt (16 Jan 2014)

Egyptians are awaiting the results of a referendum on a new constitution, with officials saying it has been overwhelmingly approved.

The draft constitution replaces one introduced by Mohammed Morsi before the Islamist president was ousted.

State media report that 37% of registered voters took part, slightly more than in the vote under Mr Morsi.

The referendum is being seen as a vote on the legitimacy of his removal and of the army, which removed him.

It was boycotted by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement Mr Morsi comes from and which wants to see him returned to office.

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It could be argued that over the course of the past two referendums, 70% of Egyptians have now given their verdict on rival visions of their constitutional future. They just didn't do it in the same poll”

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On the first day of voting on Tuesday, nine people died in clashes involving Mr Morsi's supporters. The second day passed off largely peacefully.

Some 400 people are said to have been arrested over the two days for disrupting the vote.

On Thursday, police fired tear gas during clashes with students protesting outside Cairo University in the Giza district.

Voter apathy

The state-run Al Ahram newspaper put the unofficial turnout at just under 37% of registered voters.

BBC's Orla Guerin: "It's easy to see what side the police are on"

Egypt key dates

  • 25 Jan 2011: Anti-government protests begin
  • 11 Feb 2011: President Hosni Mubarak resigns
  • 24 June 2012: Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi wins presidential elections
  • 26 Dec 2012: President Morsi signs a controversial new constitution into law following a referendum
  • 3 July 2013: President Morsi is deposed after street protests
  • 14 Aug 2013: Hundreds of pro-Morsi supporters killed when troops clear sit-in protests
  • 4 Nov 2013: Mohammed Morsi goes on trial
  • 14-15 Jan 2014: Referendum held on new constitution

It projected a more than 90% win by the "yes" campaign in all regions, except for North Sinai, where votes have not yet been counted.

In the December 2012 constitutional referendum - held while Mohammed Morsi was in power and boycotted by secularists - 33% of Egypt's 53 million voters took part. The draft was approved by 64% of voters.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Cairo says voter participation may not have been as high as the military and the interim government it backs may have liked, but given Egypt's history of low turnouts it is probably enough for them to argue their vision for the country's future has been endorsed.

The high proportion of yes votes is more a reflection of the fact that those opposed to the constitution, including the Brotherhood, boycotted the poll, rather than an indication of a tidal wave of enthusiasm for the document, says our correspondent.

Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is likely see the result as an invitation to run for president when elections take place, he adds.

A supporter of the constitution gestures in front of a statue of Egypt's former Army Chief of Staff Abdel Moneim Riad near Tahrir Square Wednesday's voting passed off mostly peacefully, in contrast to Tuesday. This voter in Tahrir Square was celebrating his participation in the vote
Officials count ballots after polls closed in Cairo The credibility of the referendum is important for the authorities as they try to chart a political roadmap toward new elections for a president
Egyptian police and a soldier stand guard outside a polling station Once again security was tight around polling stations
Egyptians gather outside a police station after it was set on fire A police station was set on fire in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis but voting was generally peaceful on Wednesday
Supporters of army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi celebrate at the end of the second day of voting in Egypt's constitutional referendum in the Shubra district, Cairo, on Wednesday As darkness fell after the second day of voting, many Egyptians were keen to celebrate the apparent cementing of a new, post-Morsi era

The new proposed constitution was drafted by a 50-member committee that included only two representatives of Islamist parties.

Critics say the document favours the army at the expense of the people, and fails to deliver on the 2011 revolution.

Under the draft:

  • The president may serve two four-year terms and can be impeached by parliament
  • Islam remains the state religion - but freedom of belief is absolute, giving some protection to minorities
  • The state guarantees "equality between men and women"
  • Parties may not be formed based on "religion, race, gender or geography"
  • Military to appoint defence minister for next eight years

A huge security operation was in evidence throughout the two days of voting, with some 160,000 soldiers and more than 200,000 policemen deployed nationwide.

Morsi supporters blocked a metro station in a Cairo suburb, stopping some trains, security officials said, but were quickly dispersed by police.

Mohammed Morsi, who was Egypt's first democratically elected president, is being held in jail in Alexandria, facing several criminal charges relating to his time in office. He says they are politically motivated.

More than 1,000 people have died in violence since Mr Morsi's overthrow.

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