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EGYPT - PROPOSED CONSTITUTION VOTE REFERENDUM
Outside a Polling Station in
Voters show off ballot ink in
January 14, 2014 - A first day of voting has been taking place in Egypt on a new constitution that could pave the way for fresh elections.
But clashes involving supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi led to several deaths.
The new charter is to replace the constitution passed under Mr Morsi before he was forced out by the army.
The military wants a strong Yes vote in the two-day referendum to endorse his removal.
Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, now designated a terrorist group, is boycotting the vote.
His supporters clashed with security forces in several parts of Egypt and officials said nine people had died:
Shortly before voting began, there was an explosion near a court building in Cairo's Imbaba district, although no casualties were reported.
Many of the hundreds queuing up at this polling station in Nasr City see the referendum as a personal vote in favour of Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Several military Chinook helicopters flew overhead. A military convoy drove outside the polling station - on the bonnet of one vehicle was a picture of Gen Sisi.
Sally Nabil, Alexandria
It was a calm morning. The security presence is quite heavy, but the forces remained at a distance, keeping an eye all around, whether from the roofs or both inside and outside the polling stations.
Abdel Bassir Hassan, Mansoura
There was a considerable turnout at polling stations during the first hours of the vote, although numbers are reducing as the day goes on.
Ahmed Kilany, Assiut
In the first hours of voting, numbers have been significant, although in the surrounding villages turnout is more limited. A huge security operation is being mounted for the two days of voting. Some 160,000 soldiers and more than 200,000 policemen are being deployed nationwide.
The BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo says this has been a distorted campaign, with endorsements for the new constitution flooding state-run and private TV and radio. However, spotting any posters from the No campaign is a lot harder and people have been arrested for putting them up, our correspondent says. Democratic or not, she says, the referendum is seen by many as more than a ballot on a new constitution - it is widely viewed as a verdict on the removal of Mr Morsi.
State-run media were on Tuesday describing the vote as a "democratic ceremony" - a term widely used during the Hosni Mubarak era but not heard since he was ousted in the revolution of January 2011.
One voter in Cairo, Salah Mustafa, told the BBC: "Compared with the document that we had last year, which was a really horrible constitution, there's a lot of rights."
But Mohammed Soudan, a spokesman for the Brotherhood's political wing, said most people were boycotting the vote, adding: "This is a message that we are not recognising this kind of new power."
Interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi has called the referendum the "most critical moment" for Egypt.
The new constitution was drafted by a 50-member committee that included only two representatives of Islamist parties.
The authorities maintain that it is a crucial step towards stability.
Under the new constitution:
Critics say the new constitution favours the army at the expense of the people, and fails to deliver on the 2011 revolution.
A Yes vote could lead to fresh elections and it now seems certain that Gen Sisi, who backed Mr Morsi's removal following mass protests, will run for president.
EGYPT KEY DATES
Voter Turnout Is 'Key'
The constitution is expected to attract a resounding Yes vote, but the turnout is key, analysts say.
The last charter, passed just over a year ago, was approved by 63.8%, but only 32.9% of the population voted.
Mohammed Morsi was Egypt's first democratically elected president but was deposed by the military last July.
He is being held in jail in Alexandria, facing several criminal charges relating to his time in office - which he says are politically motivated.
More than 1,000 people have died in violence since Mr Morsi's overthrow.
Egyptian Center for Women's Rights - ECWR
Women’s Lines Strong in Participation, Observation
First day of Voting on the New Constitution Referendum
During the first day of the Constitution referendum, the polling stations witnessed the presence of big numbers of women since the early hours of the day, from different ages and social classes, to take part in the referendum where they challenged all the threats and fears that the society is facing in all the governorates.
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights ECWR’s operations room has monitored the referendum from gender perspective. In addition, the “participate & monitor” initiative on facebook has worked hand in hand with ECWR, the initiative aims at:
The HEC provided logistical support for the judges via voting in rosters (with limited numbers assigned to each one) rather than scattered ballots which speed up the process of voting and facilitated the judge’s job by not requiring the judge to count the ballots and matching them with the actual number of voters. In addition, HEC provided with every transparent ballot box another regular box that contains the tools, paper work that will be needed for the poll (ballots, open and closure applications, ink, and a special stamp for each poll to stamp the ballots, so that any unstamped ballot shall be detected.
Some judges suggested that they needed an assistant with a computer to help the women retrieve their numbers on the voter lists, as many women came to the polls without knowing their number which caused some delays in the voting queues.
The police and military forces were present comprehensively to secure the
poll centers and organize the queues which facilitated the entry and exit
processes of citizens
There was a necessity to consider the Gender Aspect in Organizing the Polls: As the operations room received complains that stated that women’s polls were located in the 2nd and 3rd floors of the buildings which made it hard for the old women and those who accompanied their children with them to make it to the second and third floors. For example in Alexandria (El Agamy), Hanoveil (poll no. 3332 – Hafsa School and Mohamed Bekhet School) where women’s only poll was in the third floor.