Egypt's Islamists aim to build on constitution vote

Sun Dec 16, 2012 6:26pm EST
 

By Shaimaa Fayed and Tamim Elyan

CAIRO (Reuters) - President Mohamed Mursi has won initial backing from Egyptians for a new constitution that he hopes will steer the country out of crisis, but which opponents say is an Islamist charter that tramples on minority rights.

A first day of voting in a referendum on the draft basic law resulted in 56.5 percent 'Yes' vote, Mursi's political party said. An opposition official conceded that Egyptians voting on Saturday appeared to have backed the measure.

Next Saturday's second set of balloting is likely to give another "yes" vote as the voting then will be in districts generally seen as even more sympathetic towards Islamists, and that would mean the constitution should be approved.

But the apparent closeness of the early tally gives Mursi only limited comfort as it exposes deep divisions in a country where he needs to build a consensus for tough economic reforms.

If the constitution passes, national elections can take place early next year, something that many hope will usher in the stability that Egypt has lacked since the fall of Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

"The referendum was 56.5 percent for the 'yes' vote," said a senior official in the operations room set up by the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party to monitor voting.

A statement from the opposition National Salvation Front did not explicitly challenge the Brotherhood's vote tally, saying instead that voting malpractices meant a rerun was needed.

RIGHTS GROUPS   Continued...

 
Riot police stand guard in front of the presidential palace in Cairo December 16, 2012. Egyptians voted narrowly in favour of a constitution shaped by Islamists but opposed by other groups who fear it will divide the Arab world's biggest nation, officials in rival camps said on Sunday after the first round of a two-stage referendum. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah