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Egypt Votes On Controversial Constitution

Egypt Votes On A New Constitutioni
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December 15, 2012
Egyptians began voting on December 15 on a constitution promoted by its Islamist backers as the way out of a prolonged political crisis and rejected by opponents as a recipe for further divisions in the Arab world's biggest nation.Queues formed outside polling stations in Cairo and other cities and soldiers joined police to secure the referendum process after deadly protests during the build-up. Egyptians are being asked to accept or reject a constitution that must be in place before a parliamentary election can be held in 2013 to replace an Islamist-led parliament that was dissolved this year. Many hope this will lead Egypt towards stability. Pope Tawadros II, head of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox church, arrived at a school in Cairo's Abbasiya and cast his ballot alongside other Egyptian voters. (Reuters video)

WATCH: Egyptians go to vote

By RFE/RL
Voting has been proceeding smoothly in Egypt's referendum on a draft constitution, with no major violence reported.

According to VOA correspondent Ed Yeranian in Cairo, people lined up in large numbers at polling stations beginning early on December 15 to express their opinion at the ballot box.

Yeranian added that "people seemed to be generally satisfied that they were going out to express their votes, even those who were opposed to the [draft] constitution."

Leading officials had called for the vote to go peacefully amid heavy security provided by police and military.

Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El -Araby called the large turnout of voters a sign democracy is working as he cast his vote in Cairo.

"The final result should be a constitution that the majority of Egyptians agree on and is not divisive," he said.

Both supporters and opponents of the draft constitution have urged their camps to flock to the polls to influence the outcome of the vote.

President Muhammad Morsi and his Islamic backers say the draft constitution will push the nation closer to democracy nearly two years after the fall of former leader Hosni Mubarak.

But opponents of the draft constitution -- including liberals, secularists, and Christians -- say the document is too Islamist and hurts rights.

More than 26 million voters were scheduled to cast their ballots on December 15, while another 25 million will vote next week.

The vote on December 15 was slated for 10 provinces, including Cairo and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.

In Alexandria on December 14, there were clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi, some of them armed with clubs, knives and swords.

The constitution and a Morsi decree -- now rescinded -- to grant himself powers above the law have sparked Egypt's biggest crisis since the toppling of Mubarak.

The Presidential Palace in Cairo is still ringed by police and tanks after street clashes earlier this month there left at least eight dead.

With reporting by VOA, Reuters, AP, and AFP

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