Rights groups charge con­sti­tu­tion vote marred

Adding ques­tions to le­git­i­macy of vote is low turnout at polls — about 32 per­cent.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Hamza Hedawi

CAIRO — Egyp­tian rights groups called Sun­day for a re­peat of the first round of the con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum, al­leg­ing the vote was marred by wide­spread vi­o­la­tions. Is­lamists who back the dis­puted char­ter claimed they were in the lead with a ma­jor­ity of “yes” votes, though of­fi­cial re­sults have not been an­nounced.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of seven rights groups charged that there was in­suf­fi­cient su­per­vi­sion by judges in Satur­day’s vote in 10 of Egypt’s 27 prov­inces and in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tors were pre­vented from wit­ness­ing vote counts.

The rep­re­sen­ta­tives told a news con­fer­ence that they had re­ports of in­di­vid­u­als falsely iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as judges, of women pre­vented from vot­ing and that mem­bers of Is­lamist Pres­i­dent Mo­hammed Morsi’s Mus­lim Brother­hood were al­lowed in­side polling sta­tions. They also com­plained that some polling cen­ters closed ear­lier than sched­uled and that Chris­tians were de­nied en­try to polling sta­tions.

Mo­hamed ElBa­radei, Egypt’s best known re­form leader, was as frus­trated by how the ref­er­en­dum was run as the rights groups.

“Is a ref­er­en­dum held un­der in­suf­fi­cient ju­di­cial su­per­vi­sion, clearly ten­u­ous se­cu­rity and the vi­o­lence and vi­o­la­tions we are wit­ness­ing the road to sta­bil­ity or play­ing with the coun­try’s des­tiny?” the No­bel Peace Lau­re­ate and former U.N. nu­clear agency chief wrote on his Twit­ter ac­count.

The vote is the lat­est stage in a near two-year strug­gle over Egypt’s iden­tity since the ouster of long­time leader Hosni Mubarak in a pop­u­lar upris­ing. The lat­est cri­sis over the Is­lamist-backed char­ter evolved into a fight — deadly at times — over whether Egypt should move to­ward a re­li­gious state un­der Morsi’s Brother­hood and their ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive Salafi al­lies, or one that re­tains sec­u­lar tra­di­tions and an Is­lamic char­ac­ter.

Un­der­lin­ing the ten­sion, about 120,000 army troops were de­ployed to help the po­lice pro­tect polling sta­tions and state in­sti­tu­tions af­ter clashes be­tween Morsi’s sup­port­ers and op­po­nents over the past three weeks left at least 10 peo­ple dead and about 1,000 wounded.

Po­ten­tially adding to ques­tions over the le­git­i­macy of the vote is the low turnout in the first round — un­of­fi­cially es­ti­mated at 32 per­cent, which if con­firmed would be far lower than the pres­i­den­tial or par­lia­men­tary elec­tions fol­low­ing Mubarak’s fall. A sec­ond round is to be held in the re­main­ing 17 prov­inces on Satur­day.

Those that did vote were deeply di­vided. The Brother­hood claimed about 57 per­cent voted in fa­vor of the draft. The state-owned Al-Ahram daily pub­lished sim­i­lar unof­fi­cial re­sults in its on­line edi­tion. The Brother­hood, which has in the past ac­cu­rately pre­dicted elec­tion re­sults, re­lied on vote tal­lies an­nounced at in­di­vid­ual polling sta­tions across the coun­try and col­lected by its ac­tivists.

The strong­est “no” vote was in Cairo, with 68 per­cent. The only other province where the “no” vote won the ma­jor­ity was Ghar­biyah in the Nile Delta, north of Cairo.

The “yes” vote was strong­est in deeply con­ser­va­tive, ru­ral prov­inces of the south.

HAS­SAN AM­MAR / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A pro­tester looks at graf­fiti in front of the pres­i­den­tial palace in Cairo on Sun­day. Egyp­tian rights groups called for a re­peat of the first round of the con­sti­tu­tional ref­er­en­dum, al­leg­ing the vote was marred by wide­spread vi­o­la­tions.

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