The final day of voting in Egypt’s controversial constitutional referendum is underway. It is the first time the country has voted since the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in a military-backed coup last July.
The first day of voting on Tuesday saw some incidents of violence, with reports of at least eight people killed in clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi outside the capital, Cairo.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which backs Morsi, has called for a boycott of the measure, but it is expected to pass anyway. Following Morsi’s ouster, the Islamist organization has seen its sway in the country significantly reduced. The Egyptian government labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group last month. A violent crackdown at the hands of the military-appointed government has killed around 1,000 people and left many of the Brotherhood’s members either in jail or forced underground. Several dozen Brotherhood members were arrested on Tuesday as well for disrupting polling stations.
A particular point of controversy in what Morsi’s Islamist supporters have called the “sham referendum” is the military’s bolstered powers. In addition to being granted the right to appoint the defense minister for the next eight years, the military will also be able to try civilians for attacks on the armed forces.
The referendum is seen as a first step to restoring a democratic government in Egypt. Looking beyond Wednesday’s vote, Army chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has said he would be interested in running for president should there be “popular demand.” Sissi was one of the key orchestrators of the coup that toppled Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, and is seen as a likely candidate for the country’s highest office.
Voting is set to wrap up Wednesday evening local time. Some 53 million Egyptians are eligible to vote.
mz/hc (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)