News / Middle East

    Officials Push for High Turnout on Final Day of Egypt Referendum

    A woman casts her ballot in the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo, Jan. 15, 2014.
    A woman casts her ballot in the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo, Jan. 15, 2014.
    Edward Yeranian
    Egyptian officials are pushing for a high turnout on the final day of a two-day constitutional referendum, in a bid to demonstrate popular support for the interim government.  Unofficial tallies of early turnout, according to several Arab satellite channels, were around 50 percent of eligible voters in Egypt's two largest cities and less elsewhere.

    Horn-honking vehicles covered with posters urging Egyptians to “vote yes” in the constitutional referendum paraded through the streets of the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya.  Supporters of the interim government are making a concerted push to get voters to turn out.

    Unofficial tallies for the first day of voting Tuesday, according to Sky News Arabia, were a 46 percent turnout in Egypt's largest cities of Cairo and Alexandria. Elsewhere, the TV channel said 50 percent turned out in Damietta, 40 percent in Sharqiya, and 35 percent each in Assiut, Gharbiya and Ismailiya. Turnouts were lower in Muslim Brotherhood strongholds of Luxor and the North Sinai.

    Egyptian state TV and popular pro-government satellite channels played commercials showing Egyptians saying they were going to vote “yes” in the referendum. Most satellite channels which supported the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group are now off the air, but Al Jazeera Direct claimed that “voter turnout was low.”  The Brotherhood and some other parties had urged a boycott.

    Fairly long lines of voters could be seen at many Cairo polling stations Tuesday, and Arab TV channels showed women ululating to celebrate.  A lighter turnout was visible Wednesday.  

    • People line up to vote in the Egypt's constitutional referendum in Cairo, Jan. 15, 2014.
    • A voter inks her finger after casting her ballot in a two-day constitutional referendum in Cairo, Jan. 15, 2014.
    • Election workers and ballot boxes are seen inside a polling station during a referendum on the new constitution in Cairo, Jan. 15, 2014.
    • Egyptians women show their inked fingers after casting their votes at a polling station in Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • Members of the Egyptian Interior Minister's security detail stand guard as voters line up at a polling station on the first day of voting in the country's constitutional referendum in the Zamalek neighborhood in Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • A woman holds a child as she casts her vote in the country's constitutional referendum in Hawamdaya, south of Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • Coptic Pope Tawadros II shows his ink-stained finger after voting in the country's constitutional referendum at a polling station in Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • A soldier stands behind a protective barrier of sand bags outside a polling station in Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • Supporters of the Egyptian Army and Army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi hold posters and shout slogans in front of a damaged building of a court complex after an explosion in Imbaba, north of Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.
    • A view of the front of a damaged building of a court complex after an explosion in Imbaba, north of Cairo, Jan. 14, 2014.

    Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi told a news conference that more women turned out to vote than men. Egypt has 52 million eligible voters out of a population of nearly 90 million.  Beblawi said he was pleased by the turnout.

    He said the percentage of women and older voters was quite high on the first day and initial tallies show 55 percent of women voters turning out and 45 percent of men.  He asserted the turnout shows Egyptians want to take the destiny of their nation into their own hands and to demonstrate that to the world.

    The vote is part of a political transition plan announced after the military ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.  If approved, the constitutional referendum would be followed by elections for a new president and parliament.

    Police and soldiers are deployed across the country to boost security, but close to a dozen people were killed during polling Tuesday in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi.

    The new constitution would replace the charter adopted in 2012 under Morsi's presidency, stripping away Islamist language, giving women greater rights and strengthening the power of the military.

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