Egypt backs Islamist constitution in first round vote – unofficial results

Tanks are positioned in front of the presidential palace in Cairo December 15, 2012.(Reuters / Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi)
Unofficial results say Egypt has backed the controversial sharia-based constitution in the first round of voting. Voters got behind the document by a narrow margin of 56.5 percent amid opposition allegations of fraud.

The new draft constitution was backed by 56.5% of Egyptians and rejected by 43.5%, Al-Ahram reported Sunday. Egypt's capital Cairo has reportedly voted against the constitution.

The percentage given by the media is just preliminary, however, as not all of the votes have been counted. Ninety eight percent of the ballots have been processed, however, the Muslim Brotherhood said.

The unofficial estimate of voters turnout was 33%, Egyptian media reported.

Shortly after polls closed on Saturday night, the opposition group The National Salvation Front issued a statement voicing “deep concern… over the number of irregularities and violations in the holding of the referendum,” accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of fixing the vote.

The group urged voters to vote “no” on the new constitution but stopped short of calling for a boycott of the referendum, which they had previously promised if irregularities were seen in the voting process.

Protestors and members of the opposition Al Wafd party shout anti-Mursi slogans in front of their headquarters after it was attacked by Islamists in Cairo December 15, 2012 (Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
Protestors and members of the opposition Al Wafd party shout anti-Mursi slogans in front of their headquarters after it was attacked by Islamists in Cairo December 15, 2012 (Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Among the allegations of fraud that The National Salvation Front flagged in a separate document included; a lack of judges to monitor the voting process and reports of members of the Muslim Brotherhood browbeating people into voting“yes” to the new constitution.

“There were not enough judges yesterday to supervise the vote. We also complained about preventing our observers or observers of the human rights groups from attending the counting process… We’re also complaining about the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood members were continuing their propaganda inside the polling stations… claiming that voting ‘no’ would mean that you’re an infidel or that you’re against Islam,” Khaled Dawood of The National Salvation Front told RT.

The referendum should not have been held in the first place, Dawood stated. Egypt needed some time for the government and the opposition to sit down and negotiate “a new, just constitution that would be satisfactory to a reasonable amount of Egyptians,” he added.

Now that the first round of voting has been held, Dawood believes the people have sent a message of disapproval for the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi.

The opposition has already called upon the Supreme Commission overseeing the referendum to revise the results of Saturday’s vote.

“Right now we want the authorities to look into those violations and to decide by itself whether this is good enough in order to repeat the first round,” the opposition spokesman told RT.

Egyptian human rights groups have also urged a repeat of the first round of Sunday's constitutional referendum on Sunday. The voting process lacked sufficient judicial supervision, and widespread violations have taken place, including voter obstruction and individuals falsely posing as poll supervisors, human right activists told at a media conference.

Hundreds of Islamist protests subsequently attacked headquarters of opposition party Al-Wafd in Cairo on Saturday night. They used gasoline bombs and birdshot, injuring two people before security forces arrived on the scene to disperse them.

"Just a few minutes ago, hundreds of Abu Ismail's supporters were trying to break the wall of the headquarters and were firing Molotov cocktails at the building." Al-Wafd Chief Editor Majdy Sarhan told Egypt's official news agency, MENA. He stressed that the assailants also damaged nearby parked cars and the façade of the building.

An injured journalist is surrounded by other journalists after the Al Wafd headquarters was attacked by Islamists in Cairo December 15, 2012 (Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
An injured journalist is surrounded by other journalists after the Al Wafd headquarters was attacked by Islamists in Cairo December 15, 2012 (Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Over 50 percent of Egypt’s registered voters made their way to polls on Saturday to vote for a constitution that has opened rifts among the Egyptian population. The final decision of the new charter will be made next Saturday when the rest of Egypt votes.

The opposition has slammed the new document for being too rooted in Islamist doctrine and not representative of Egypt’s minorities. President Mohammed Morsi claims that the document is necessary to usher in a period of transition in Egyptian politics.

Over 120,000 troops and 6,000 tanks have been deployed around Egypt to protect polling stations and government buildings.

Tensions have been running high in the world's largest Arab nation where the new constitution has effectively split the country in two. Massive protests hit Egypt’s second largest city of Alexandria on Friday as opposition protesters scuffled with Muslim Brotherhood supporters at the city’s central Mosque.

Three weeks ago Morsi assumed new powers that allowed him to take decisions without the review of the judiciary. He was forced to relinquish these extra powerson December 9 to quell public anger after thousands of protesters gathered at Cairo’s presidential palace to decry the new measures.

An ambulance carries injured people in front of their headquarters after it was attacked by Islamists in Cairo December 15, 2012 (Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
An ambulance carries injured people in front of their headquarters after it was attacked by Islamists in Cairo December 15, 2012 (Reuters / Amr Abdallah Dalsh)