Egypt Counts Constitution Votes, VP Resigns

OnIslam & News Agencies

Egyptians Decide On Constitution
Egyptians queued outside the polling stations to decide on the country’s future.
Egypt, constitution, vice-president

CAIRO – Egypt started counting votes in the second round of a public referendum on the country's new constitution, as Vice-President Mahmoud Mekky resigned his post.

"We feel our voice matters," Shahinaz Shalaby, a housewife, told Reuters.

Though she disagrees with some clauses in the new document, Shalaby voted "yes".

A "yes" vote would not stop protests but "then it will stabilize afterwards," she said.

From early hours on Saturday, Egyptians queued outside the polling stations to decide on the country’s future.

Army soldiers joined police to secure the referendum process after deadly protests during the build up to the referendum date.

To provide security for the vote, some 250,000 security personnel have been deployed nationwide to try to keep order during the referendum.

The constitution is meant to be the cornerstone of democracy after three decades of army-backed autocracy under President Hosni Mubarak.

Supporters say the passage of the constitution will bring stability to the country after months of turbulence since Mubarak’s ouster last year.

If the constitution is passed, a parliamentary election will be held in about two months.

However, the opposition says the constitution is divisive and would cause more divisions in the country.

"I'm voting 'no' because Egypt can't be ruled by one faction," said Karim Nahas, 35, a stock market broker, heading to a polling station in Giza, a province included in this round of voting which covers parts of greater Cairo.

Polling stations closed at 11 p.m (2100 GMT) after voting was extended for four hours.

Analysts expect another "yes" vote on Saturday because it covers rural and other areas seen as having more Islamist sympathizers.

Unofficial tallies are likely to emerge within hours of the close, but the referendum committee may not declare an official result for the two rounds until Monday, after hearing appeals.

VP Resignation

Just hours before polls closed, Vice-President Mahmoud Mekky announced his resignation.

In a resignation letter, Mekky said that although he had held on in the post he had "realized for some time that the nature of political work did not suit my professional background as a judge".

Mekky, a prominent judge who said he was uncomfortable in politics, disclosed earlier he had not been informed of a controversial decree granting President Mohamed Morsi sweeping powers. Morsi later amended that decree.

The timing of Mekky's move appeared linked to the fact there is no vice-presidential post under the draft constitution.

The resignation comes as the opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) coalition warned of troubles if the constitution is passed.

"I see more unrest," said Ahmed Said, head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party and a member of the NSF.

Citing what he said were "serious violations" on the first day of voting, he said anger against President Morsi and his Islamist allies was growing.

"People are not going to accept the way they are dealing with the situation," Said added.

Opposition figurehead Mohammed ElBaradei has urged Egyptians to vote against the charter.

"We know that if this constitution is passed, there will be no stability," he said late on Thursday.

Opponents, who had earlier quit the drafting assembly saying their voices were not heard, were invited to talks with President Morsi but stayed away.

Turning down several invitations for a national dialogue to find a way-out of the crisis, opposition figures rejected a last invitation on Friday by the constitution’s general assembly to talk on the disputed articles.

Mohamed Beltagy, a senior official in the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said the constitution was crucial to holding a parliamentary election and setting up the essential institutions of state.

"What is the catastrophe of this constitution?" he asked the assembly which drafted the document, during a sitting on Friday that was called to challenge opposition criticism of the text.

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