Peaceful final day of voting on new Egypt constitution

The atmosphere outside a polling station in Cairo is similar to that of a rally, the BBC's James Reynolds says

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.

Analysis

Here at the Workers Stadium in Nasr City the referendum has turned into an unofficial military parade and concert. Outside the polling station a group of voters and military enthusiasts wave pictures of the Armed Forces chief Gen Sisi. Vendors sell posters of the general, and a white police jeep plays military songs.

The security forces openly encourage a "Yes" vote, which is seen as the same thing as a vote for Gen Sisi. "Sisi ! Sisi !" chanted one officer carrying a walkie-talkie.

Shortly after midday, a military helicopter circled overhead - barely clearing the top of the neighbourhood's ten-storey buildings. Soldiers on board the helicopter waved to the crowd below. A convoy of armoured personnel carriers parked a block away from the polling station.

Anyone in favour of a "No" vote is staying well away.

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.

Egyptian police and a soldier stand guard outside a polling station Once again security was tight around polling stations
Egyptians gather outside a police station after it was set on fire A police station was set on fire in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis but voting was generally peaceful on Wednesday
Supporters of army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi celebrate at the end of the second day of voting in Egypt's constitutional referendum in the Shubra district, Cairo, on Wednesday 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.

Egypt key dates

  • 25 Jan 2011: Anti-government protests begin
  • 11 Feb 2011: President Hosni Mubarak resigns
  • 24 June 2012: Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi wins presidential elections
  • 26 Dec 2012: President Morsi signs a controversial new constitution into law following a referendum
  • 3 July 2013: President Morsi is deposed after street protests
  • 14 Aug 2013: Hundreds of pro-Morsi supporters killed when troops clear sit-in protests
  • 4 Nov 2013: Mohammed Morsi goes on trial
  • 14-15 Jan 2014: Referendum held on new constitution

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.

Women queuing to vote in Alexandria have been speaking about their hopes

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