Middle East

Peaceful final day of voting on new Egypt constitution

Egyptians have voted for a final day in a referendum on a new constitution drawn up following the ousting of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The army-backed government was seeking a "Yes" vote to endorse his removal.

Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated a terrorist group, boycotted the vote.

Wednesday's voting passed off mostly peacefully, in contrast to Tuesday when nine people died in clashes involving Mr Morsi's supporters.

However, about 300 people have been arrested over the two days for disrupting the vote.

Morsi supporters blocked a metro station in a Cairo suburb, stopping some trains, security officials said, but were quickly dispersed by police.

The new charter is to replace the constitution passed during the rule of Mr Morsi before he was removed last July. It remains unclear when results will be announced.

The BBC's Sally Nabil, at a polling station in Alexandria, said the number of people queuing as voting began was noticeably lower than at the same time on Tuesday.

However, another polling station for voters from outside Alexandria was busy, our correspondent reports.

Correspondents in Cairo also suggest that polling stations were not as busy as on Tuesday. The BBC's Ahmed Kilany says it was a similar story in the southern cities of Assiut and Sohag.

The overall turnout for the poll remains uncertain, but the vote is expected to endorse the new charter.

A huge security operation has been in evidence throughout the two days of voting, with some 160,000 soldiers and more than 200,000 policemen deployed nationwide.

'Work hard'

The referendum is believed likely to lead to elections later in the year and army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who backed the overthrow of Mr Morsi, is considered almost certain to stand for the post of president.

Image caption Once again security was tight around polling stations
Image caption A police station was set on fire in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis but voting was generally peaceful on Wednesday
Image caption As darkness fell after the second day of voting, many Egyptians were keen to celebrate the apparent cementing of a new, post-Morsi era

The new constitution was drafted by a 50-member committee that included only two representatives of Islamist parties.

The authorities maintain that it is a crucial step towards stability.

Under the new constitution:

  • The president may serve two four-year terms and can be impeached by parliament
  • Islam remains the state religion - but freedom of belief is absolute, giving some protection to minorities
  • The state guarantees "equality between men and women"
  • Parties may not be formed based on "religion, race, gender or geography"
  • Military to appoint defence minister for next eight years

Critics say the new charter favours the army at the expense of the people, and fails to deliver on the 2011 revolution.

Mohammed Morsi, who was Egypt's first democratically elected president, is being held in jail in Alexandria, facing several criminal charges relating to his time in office. He says they are politically motivated.

More than 1,000 people have died in violence since Mr Morsi's overthrow.