Early signs show Egypt's new constitution passing

Sat Dec 22, 2012 6:35pm EST
 
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By Yasmine Saleh and Edmund Blair

CAIRO (Reuters) - Early indications showed Egyptians approved an Islamist-drafted constitution after Saturday's final round of voting in a referendum despite opposition criticism of the measure as divisive.

An official from the Muslim Brotherhood's political party, which backs Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, said that after nearly 4 million votes had been counted there was a majority of 74 percent in favor of the constitution.

Exit polls from the opposition National Salvation Front also showed the constitution passing, an official said.

Last week's first round returned 57 percent in favor of the constitution, according to unofficial data. The vote was split over two days as many judges refused to supervise the ballot.

The referendum committee may not declare official results for the two rounds until Monday, after hearing appeals.

Islamist backers of Mursi say the constitution is vital to move to democracy, nearly two years after an Arab Spring revolt overthrew authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. It will provide stability for a weak economy, they say.

But the opposition accuses Mursi of pushing through a text that favors Islamists and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women.

"I'm voting 'no' because Egypt can't be ruled by one faction," said Karim Nahas, 35, a stockbroker, heading to a polling station in Giza, in greater Cairo.   Continued...

 
A man leaves a voting centre after casting his ballot in the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Giza, south of Cairo, December 22, 2012. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah