Egyptians vote on Mohamed Morsi's divisive new constitution
Egyptians were voting on Saturday on a , with the president, Mohamed Morsi, and his Muslim Brotherhood supporters in favour, while liberals, secular Muslims and Christians oppose it.
"The times of silence are over," said a bank employee, Essam el-Guindy, as he waited to cast his ballot in Cairo's wealthy Zamalek district. "I am not OK with the constitution. Morsi should not have let the country split like this."
Guindy was one of about 20 standing in a line for men waiting to vote. A separate women's line had twice as many people. Elsewhere in Cairo, hundreds of voters began queuing outside polling stations nearly two hours before the voting started at 8am.
"I read parts of the constitution and saw no reason to vote against it," said Rania Wafik as she held her newborn baby while waiting in line. "We need to move on and I just see no reason to vote against the constitution."
Around 120,000 soldiers were deployed to protect polling stations after rioting and violence throughout the week. A radical Islamist group also said it will send its own members to defend the stations alongside the army and police.
Clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents over the past three weeks have left at least 10 people dead and about 1,000 wounded. "No to the constitution of blood," said the red banner headline of the independent daily al-Masry al-Youm.
Critics are concerned about the charter's legitimacy after most judges said they would not supervise the vote. Rights groups have also warned of opportunities for widespread fraud, and the opposition says a decision to hold the vote on two separate days to make up for the shortage of judges leaves the door open for initial results to sway voter opinion.
has 51 million eligible voters, of whom about 26 million are supposed to cast their ballots on Saturday and the rest next week. Saturday's vote is held in 10 provinces, including Cairo and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, the country's second largest and the scene of violent clashes on Friday between opponents and supporters of Morsi.
Another newspaper, the pro-opposition al-Watan, published photographs of Morsi's supporters in Alexandria armed with knives, swords and sticks on the front page of its Saturday edition. "A referendum on their constitution," read the headline.
Imams have defended the constitution in mosques but Morsi's opponents say minority concerns have been ignored and the charter contains clauses that could allow the ruling Islamists to restrict civil liberties, ignore women's rights and undermine trade unions.
"At one point in our history, Cleopatra, a woman, ruled Egypt. Now you have a constitution that makes women not even second-class but third-class citizens," said a businesswoman, Olivia Ghita. "This constitution is tailored for one specific group [the Muslim Brotherhood]. It's a shame. I am very upset."
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