Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Egypt referendum: Voting amid tight security

A first day of voting has been taking place in Egypt on a new constitution that could pave the way for fresh elections.But clashes involving supporters of ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi led to several deaths.The new charter is to replace the constitution passed under Mr Morsi before he was forced out by the army.The military wants a strong Yes vote in the two-day referendum to endorse his removal.

Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, now designated a terrorist group, is boycotting the vote. Shortly before polls opened, a bomb exploded at a Cairo courthouse. His supporters clashed with security forces in several parts of Egypt and officials said nine people had died:

Four people were killed and more wounded in clashes in the Upper Egypt city of Sohag, though details of the incident are disputed
One person died in Nahia, in the Giza district of Cairo
Another was killed during an anti-referendum protest in Bani Suef, south of Cairo, the governor there told the BBC
Three people - Morsi supporters according to security sources - are reported to have been shot dead in the Cairo suburb of Kerdasa

Shortly before voting began, there was an explosion near a court building in Cairo's Imbaba district, although no casualties were reported.A huge security operation is being mounted for the two days of voting. Some 160,000 soldiers and more than 200,000 policemen are being deployed nationwide.Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, wearing dark sunglasses and khaki fatigues, visited one polling station in north Cairo, telling guards there: "Work hard. We need the referendum to be completely secured."

The BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo says this has been a distorted campaign, with endorsements for the new constitution flooding state-run and private TV and radio.However, spotting any posters from the No campaign is a lot harder and people have been arrested for putting them up, our correspondent says.Democratic or not, she says, the referendum is seen by many as more than a ballot on a new constitution - it is widely viewed as a verdict on the removal of Mr Morsi.

Source: BBC

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