CAIRO, EGYPT —
Egyptians in 17 provinces went to the polls Saturday in the second and final round of a referendum over the country's controversial new constitution. Turnout appeared light in some places and heavy in others.
At a polling station in Giza, across the river from Cairo, an older woman in a headscarf insisted loudly that she was voting “yes” for Egypt's new constitution as other ladies in line looked on. Moments later, a man in a passing bus shouted “no, no, no to the constitution,” creating a stir.
Many voters appeared unwilling to confide their personal preferences about the proposed constitution. But on Arab satellite channels, activists on both sides of the issue argued vociferously, shouting angrily at times.
Military police in khaki fatigues watched the crowd of voters from a distance, as their jeeps idled outside the polling station. Regular police also stood guard at the door, while a group of election monitors entered the station, refusing to comment.
At a men's polling station in Giza's Dokki neighborhood, Judge Mohamed Fahmy told VOA that he had agreed to oversee voting, despite a boycott by the majority of his colleagues.
He says that holding the vote is very important for the country and that the situation requires that everyone cooperate for the stability of the country. He calls the vote an obligation for every Egyptian and says it is his duty as a judge to help the country be more stable.
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
Egypt's main judicial organizations decided to boycott the vote, and the judge overseeing the referendum resigned this past week, claiming to be ill. Despite the boycott, however, over 7,200 judges agreed to supervise the vote, according to al Jazeera TV.
At another polling station in one of Egypt's outlying provinces, a woman complained that a judge had prevented those opposed to the constitution from voting. There were numerous irregularities reported in the first round, as well, although Egypt's justice minister agreed to investigate.
Polls are due to close at 7 p.m. local time, although voting was extended for up to four hours at many polling places during the first round last Saturday. Unofficial results are expected to be announced in the hours following the close of voting. Fifty-six-point-five percent of voters reportedly approved the constitution in the first round of the referendum one week ago.
Supporters and opponents of the constitution threw stones, bottles and bricks at each other outside a large mosque in Egypt's coastal port city of Alexandria, Friday. Over half a dozen Egyptians also died in street fighting 10 days ago near Egypt's presidential palace.