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Egyptians Voting on New Constitution

Egyptians lined up Tuesday to vote in a referendum on a new constitution supported by the military-backed interim government.

Hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers deployed across the country as the two-day vote began, but, that did not stop violence between supporters and opponents of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from killing at least eight people.
If approved, the new constitution would replace the pro-Islamic constitution adopted during the Morsi presidency in 2012. Only about 30 percent of voters turned out for that referendum.

The pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood movement is urging Egyptians to boycott this week's referendum, calling it illegitimate.
The new constitution scraps Islamist language in the old document and would give women greater rights and strengthen the power of the military.

Egypt's military toppled Mr. Morsi after opposition protesters accused him of trying to monopolize power. Authorities have cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood, declaring it a terrorist group and arresting many of its leaders.
More than 1,000 people, mainly pro-Morsi Islamists, have been killed, while protests continue.
VOA's correspondent in Cairo, Elizabeth Arrott, says the vote is really seen as a referendum on the man likely to run for president if the constitution is approved -- army chief General Abdel Fatteh el Sissi -- who ousted President Morsi in July.

Arrott says the referendum is expected to pass, but that the process has been marred by a crackdown on the opposition.

( OPTIONAL SOUNDBITES

Elizabeth Arrott:

"Many people are seeing this, really, as an endorsement of General Abdel Fatteh el Sissi, the defense minister who's really the de facto leader here. So it is about this constitution. It's the third in three years that they've gone to the polls for. Nominally. But it's more, it seems to be whether it's going to be an endorsement of the new ruling elite."

"It seems by all indications that it will pass. There's never been a referendum that has not passed in Egypt. So it's likely to. The opponents have been so harassed - mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, well they've called for a boycott - they're banned, and most of their leaders are arrested, so it's very hard to organize sort of opposition to it."

Saba Mahmood, associate professor of anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley

"I think this is the result of two things. One is the political repression that the military government has unleased in Egypt so that most people who disagree with the government are not going to really come out in any great numbers because they are afraid of the political repercussions. And secondly, there is a general nationalist fervor that has gripped the country in support of the military." )

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