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Egyptians Vote for Controversial Constitution

  • VOA News

Egyptians girls show their inked fingers after casting their votes at a polling station in a referendum on a disputed constitution, Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

Egyptians girls show their inked fingers after casting their votes at a polling station in a referendum on a disputed constitution, Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012.

Half of Egypt's eligible voters are casting ballots Saturday for a controversial draft constitution that has sparked weeks of violence and protests.

Men and women are voting separately at schools in Cairo and nine other provinces. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has already cast his vote.

The rest of the country will vote next Saturday ( December 22 ). The vote has been scattered over two consecutive Saturdays due to a boycott by a majority of the judiciary, which must oversee the vote by law.

Egypt's Draft Constitution

  • Limits president to two four-year terms
  • Provides protections against arbitrary detention and torture
  • Islamic law, or Sharia, serves as the basis for legislation
  • Religious freedom is limited to Muslims, Christians and Jews
  • Citizens are deemed equal before the law and equal in rights
It is not clear when final results will be announced.

President Morsi's former party, the Muslim Brotherhood, supports the proposed constitution. Mr. Morsi resigned from the party when he became president earlier this year.

Members of the liberal, secular and Christian opposition say they fear the constitution will erode civil liberties because it boosts the role of Islamic law and does not mention womens' rights.

Officials say they have deployed 120,000 soldiers to protect polling stations.

Clashes broke out Friday among stone-throwing demonstrators protesting the draft constitution near a mosque in the port city of Alexandria, prompting police to fire tear gas. Medical workers say 15 people were injured.

A largely Islamic committee approved the document last month after liberal and Christian members walked out, complaining they were being ignored.
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