Egypt's referendum part 1: voters out in force for controversial constitution poll
11:45 Scenes are tense in Hadayek El-Kobbain in the queues as voters tenatatively discuss the reasons behind their choice, reports Sara El-Rashidi.
“I am going to vote no because there are things I don’t like in the constitution especially articles referring to women’s, children’s and human rights. The social freedoms in the new constitution are much worse than the old constitution,” voter Nermine told Ahram Online at the Ahmed Maher experimental language school in Hadayek El-Kobba.
Her comments were met with an angry response from fellow voters who accused Nermine of being “unpatriotic.”
Hala, another voter, replied “I love my country, for the love of God, I will vote yes.”
11:30 Reports of electoral violations during Egypt’s first day at the polls are beginning to come in, says Ahram Online journalist Lina El-Wardani.
Sami Yassin of the National Human Rights Council, who has been monitoring polling stations in Shubra, told El-Wardani that the Salafist Nour Party is campaigning for a Yes vote 200 meters away from polling stations, which is illegal.
He added he saw two women wearing the full face veil standing in queues urging other women to say Yes to the constitution at Insar Serri School polling stations.
Meanwhile, in Abu Bakr School polling station the voting cards were not stamped, added Yassin, explaining that the judges opened the ballot boxes and restamped them.
Very few judges are available and queues are very long, Ahram Online’s El-Wardani added, describing two men on a motorcycle roaming the area shouting “yes for stability” while carrying a banner reading “Yes for the constitution.”
Turn out is low, says Yassin .
11:25 Former MP of Cairo’s Nasr City district and co-founder of Adl Party Mostafa El-Naggar tweets that his ballot papers were not stamped, that others are not being stamped and that the water print on them is not clear at the Ibn El-Nafis polling station.
11:15 Following fellow National Salvation Front leader Hamdeen Sabbabi, Constitution Party founder Mohamed El-Baradei offers his viewpoint on the referendum via Twitter:
“To every Egyptian, man and woman, listen to the voice of reason and conscience and say No [to the constitution draft] to save Egypt and support of the nation... Adoption of divisive draft constitution that violates universal values & freedoms is a sure way to institutionalize instability & turmoil.”
11:00 Moving North to Alexandria, Ahram Online’s Randa Ali is scouting out the long voting lines at Abbas El-Akkad station in the middle-class district of Semouha, after bloody scenes on the streets of the coastal city yesterday.
Sarah and Magda, two Coptic sisters, said that they were very happy with the way the vote is being conducted and that it seemed well organised but added, in the end, the results will probably be rigged.
“We voted no as the constitution is simply not good enough,” they said.
Meanwhile two fully veiled women Mervat and Naglaa said they will vote in support of the constitution, after being influenced by Islamic scholars who told them to vote yes.
“We expect clashes to erupt after the results are announced because the opposition are opposing for the sake of opposing. “
10:50 Prime Minister Hisham Qandil announced in a media statement that the government has worked to "guarantee" that the voting process goes as smoothly as possible, after inspecting several polling stations around Cairo’s Nasr City district, Aharm Online’s Arabic language website reports. Qandil urged all Egyptians to cast their votes whether for or against the draft constitution adding that the referendum serves to “build the new Egypt.”
10:45 The Muslim Brotherhood have set up temporary offices outside one of the biggest school complex in Cairo’s Shubra district, reports Ahram Online’s Lina El-Wardani.
Hunched over their laptops, Freedom and Justice Party members Ahmed Yoursy and Hisham Abdel-Raouf are currently helping voters to find their polling station, while urging people to vote “yes” to the new constitution.
Yoursy and Abdel-Raouf said they are providing people with this service as most people in the area are illiterate and do not have the money to text their identity card numbers to the electoral phone service to locate the polling stations.
When asked whether he is influencing people to vote yes, Abdel-Raouf said “If they ask for my opinion, I tell them to vote for the constitution."
10:30 Meanwhile there are lighthearted scenes in Cairo’s smart Maadi district despite hundreds of men and women queuing outside National Language School and Maadi Secondary girls school polling stations, reports Ahram Online’s Dina Samak.
“Boycotting would have been an easier choice," one woman jokingly said to her husband, who replied that it was easier this time than during the summer's presidential elections as "at least the weather was not as hot."
The couple, who are in their early forties, added that they’ve been voting since March 2011 but so far “have never won.”
10:20 A bearded man standing at the entrance of Sakr Koreish Language School Polling Station in Cairo’s Ramsis district asks the queuing voters to say “Yes” to the constitution, reports Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim.
When one of the voters admitted that he had voted “No” , the heckler threatened to set the voter’s car on fire then added “even if you say No the results will be a “yes” anyway.”
10:11 The Egyptian Current Party, whose founding members are offshoots of the Muslim Brotherhood, have declared they are running an operation room where any violations or reports of rigging can be reported.
The party has repeated its call for people to vote against the draft constitution.
10:08 Judge Zain El-Hawary of the North Cairo Court supervising the Sakr Korish School polling station in Cairo’s Ramsis district told Ahram Online why he didn't boycott.
“I decided to take part in the constitution referendum because I believe that the judges should not be politicised."
According to El-Hawary, the voting started at 8am and around 200 voters have already cast their ballots since the morning. The results will be announced at the end of the day, the judge confirmed.
10:05 Coptic Pope Tawadros II cast his vote in Cairo’s Waily district at the Al-Qoba Al-Fadaweya School polling station.
Pope Tawadros assumed the leadership of the Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church only last month.
10:00 President Mohamed Morsi voted in the upper middle-class district of Heliopolis today. Morsi, who is originally from Nile Delta governorate Sharqiya, is now registered at his new address in Heliopolis where the presidential palace is located.
The president issued an electoral law stating everyone must return to their home districts and vote unlike last year's referendum on amendments to the constitution, where people were permitted to vote in any polling station.
09:45 At Mahmoud Fahmy El-Maamary School polling station in Cairo’s Daher district people are forced to wait as there are not enough judges to supervise the voting process: only one out of six judges turned up, reports Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim.
Voters began fighting with the police and the army, who are currently securing the area, to allow them to start the polls. They have been asked to enter five at time.
Many judges have boycotted the referendum after President Mohamed Morsi’s contentious 22 November Constitutional Declaration made his decisions immune to appeal and was widely seen to take away power from the judiciary.
“I am here to say no to the Muslim Brotherhood. I read the constitution and I am against child labor and the articles drafted about women rights. However, I expect the referendum results to be in favour of the constitution even if the people vote no”, Mohamed Marie, a Maths teacher in his late fifties told Ahram Online, adding that he feared there would be vote rigging.
09:30 Tensions are high at the polling stations in Cairo's working-class Hadayek El-Kobba district, as voters slam the media for, they say, misrepresenting those in support of the constitution, reports Ahram Online's Sara Rashidi.
“I have already noticed a lot of aggression towards the media. I have just been attacked by a group of voters queuing outside the polling station telling me that I have come to this area to spread false news about those voting yes. They essentially called me a liberal traitor and propagandist so I have had to put on the veil, as I don’t think my appearance helps. This particular area is a working-class neighbourhood where the overwhelming majority were voting yes - they say the media has launched a campaign to discredit supporters of the constitution and the president. I only s/blockquote>
09:20 In Cairo’s well-heeled district of Zamalek two long queues have already formed at the Faculty of Arts polling station. People of all ages have come to cast their votes, reports Ahram Online’s Zeinab El-Guindy.
“I read the constitution and I like it,” says Perihan Hassan, a housewife in her late twenties. “I will say yes regardless of whether I like the Muslim Brotherhood or not...there are some articles that are misunderstood like those regarding health care and child labor.”
Activists campaigning for a "No" vote argued that the new constitution could allow child labor as the articles concerning children’s rights are too vague. They also maintained that the new constitution does not guarantee health care for all citizens.
Meanwhile, Soha Amer, a veiled young woman in her thirties, told Ahram Online she will vote against the draft constitution.
“The constitution contains no articles on women’s rights or on the equality of citizens. I also do not understand why the constitution would include an article allowing state and society to interfere in people’s morals and values,” she said referring to Article 10, which says that the State will guarantee the "genuine character of the Egyptian family" as well as "protect its moral values."
09:10 In Cairo’s Hadayek El-Kobba district, 100s are already queuing up at the Haroun El-Rashid School polling station reports Ahram online’s Sarah El-Rashidi.
“The paper was not stamped. Some were and others were not so we shouted and they stamped our papers,” says Coptic voter Nabila, who was queuing with Nadia, another Coptic woman in her fifties, adding that she feared her vote would be invalidated.
“We will not win,” Nabila said about those voting against the constitution draft but was reassured by Nadia who said: “We will. There is God”.
Copts are estimated to make up around 10 per cent of Egyptian population, although no official percentage is recorded. The Coptic Orthodox Church urged its followers to participate in the polls but refrained from specifying whether they should vote yes or no.
09:00 The disputed national charter has been the subject of scrutiny by rights organisations.
UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice, expressed their “deep concern” in a Friday statement, regarding the “equality, non-discrimination and protection and promotion of women’s human rights” in the constitution.
Independent expert Kamala Chandrakirana, who heads the UN Working Group, added that they are concerned that almost no women were in the Constituent Assembly and so woman’s perspectives were “grossly under-represented.”
They called on the Egyptian government to ensure non-discrimination and equality in the text.
08:40 Egypt’s Foreign Ministry has informed its embassies and consulates that expat voting will be extended until Monday 8pm. The decision to lengthen the window to vote was made by the Supreme Electoral Commission - expats were originally given until Saturday 8pm.
08:20 Campaigning on both sides went on into the early hours of the morning, with people distributing leaflets in support of the constitution or outlining key issues with the national charter.
Revolutionary media collection Mosireen, set up last year to document the Egyptian revolution, have made dozens of videos outlining the problems with Egypt’s draft national charter, under the banner “Know their constitution."
Speaking to experts, activists and victims of violence at the hands of the president’s supporters, the group have also used music and animation to create the series of short clips aimed at educating people about what they call the “Muslim Brotherhood” constitution.
Key topics covered include the military, torture, the role of religion in the constitution, labour rights, health, Al-Azhar, housing rights and parliament, among others.
08:15 Meanwhile, from the opposition side, former presidential candidate and leader of the National Salvation Front Hamdeen Sabbahi said via Twitter:
"Today we say no to the constitution of blood and divison, no to the constitution of tyranny, no to the constitution of price increases and denial of the rights of the poor."
08:10 Political spats over who is to blame for violence between rival protest groups have erupted again following bloody scenes in Alexandria Friday, as Freedom and Justice Party second-in-command Essam El-Erian said on their official website Saturday morning:
“It's totally absurd that the [opposition coaliton] National Salvation Front blame the elected President for his opponents’ violence in Alexandria Friday."
The FJP instead attributed “paid thugs and rogue revolutionaries” for the attack which saw at least 19 injured, as rival groups clashed in the coastal city after controversial cleric Ahmed Mahalawy urged voters to say “yes” to the disputed draft constitution.
Ahram Online journalist Randa Ali in Alexandria, reported that Central Security Forces officers told her four bearded men had been arrested carrying knives.
For a closer look at the political tensions in Alexandria, read our full report here
08:05 More than 100,000 soldiers in amoured vehicles have been deployed to protect polling stations, government buildings and major cities, Reuters reported, ahead of the voting today. This follows violent scenes in Alexandria yesterday, when rival protest groups clashes and groups armed with swords and iron rods attacked an opposition forces protest.
08:00 Good morning, we kick off our live coverage of the first round of voting, as polling stations open across the country. For an overview of the events leading up to today's referendum read here
Egyptians return to the polling stations, Saturday, to vote on a controversial draft Constitution without full judicial supervision and following three weeks of bloody clashes between rival protests as well as strikes and mass rallies against President Mohamed Morsi after he pushed through the hastily written national charter.
Opposition forces, under the umbrella of the National Salvation Front, have slammed the document, saying it will only enforce a presidential dictatorship, threaten rights and freedoms and leave the door open to an ultraorthodox interpretation of Sharia Law.
The Constituent Assembly which drafted it, the front add, was unrepresentative of Egypt after several leftist , liberal and Church representatives staged a mass walk out.
Supporters of President Morsi have, however, held huge demonstrations in support of the constitution across the country, maintaining that the draft national charter is necessary for a "stability" and a successful transition to democracy.
Due to the lack of judges, after the general assembly of Judges Club announced they would boycott the polls, the referendum will take place over two stages: the first time this has happened since 1956.
The first stage, Saturday, will include 10 governorates: Cairo, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Daqahliya, Assiut, Sohag, Aswan, and North and South Sinai.
The number of citizens eligible for voting in this stage is estimated at 26.6 million out of a total 51.3 million.
Four of these (Cairo and the three Nile-Delta governorates of Gharbiya, Sharqiya, and Daqahliya) voted overwhelmingly against Egypt’s current Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt's run-off presidential election in June.
Alexandria, the upper-Egypt governorates of Assiut, Sohag, and Aswan, and the border governorates of North and South Sinai voted 'yes' for Morsi without a large margin from his rival Ahmed Shafiq.
The second stage, due to be held on 22 December, will include Egypt’s remaining 17 governorates, with a number of voters estimated at 24.7 million.