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Egypt

Egyptian VP Mahmoud Mekki resigns amid constitution vote

Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekki has announced his resignation, state television reported. The move has come on the second day and final phase of a referendum on a new Islamist-backed constitution.

Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekki resigned on Saturday, state television reported.

Mekki, a career judge before President Muhammad Morsi named him to the post in August, announced his resignation on the same day of voting in the final phase of a referendum on a disputed, Islamist-backed constitution.

Egypt: Day of Decision

A statement by Mekki read on state TV hinted that his resignation could be linked to Morsi's policies.

"I have realized a while ago that the nature of politics does not suit my professional background as a judge," he wrote.

He said he first submitted his resignation last month but unrest in the country, the conflict between Israel and Hamas and the subsequent Egyptian-brokered truce forced him to stay on.

The new constitution, if passed, will eliminate the post of vice president.

Second day of voting

More than 25 million Egyptians were eligible voters in Saturday's round, which was under way in areas considered to be broadly conservative, meaning a yes vote was expected to prevail.

About 57 percent of those who voted in the first round of the referendum, on December 15, approved the document, according to unofficial results.

The opposition claims that the first round was marred by massive irregularities, an allegation denied by the electoral commission.

The Muslim Brotherhood, who supported Morsi in his June election, and its Islamist allies say the charter will fast-track the country's transition to democracy, from the authoritarian rule of President Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed almost two years ago. It will help restore the stability needed to fix an economy that is on the ropes, they say.

The opposition, meanwhile, says the constitution could undermine political rights and sideline minorities.

The main opposition bloc, the National Salvation Front, has renewed its call for followers to turn out in large numbers to vote against the charter. However, Islamists appear confident of securing a clear vote in favor of the constitution.

Voting was extended by four hours to 11 pm (2100 GMT). The final result is to be determined by the majority of the valid ballots cast in both rounds, according to the electoral commission.

If the constitution is adopted, it will clear the way for legislative elections within 60 days. If the charter is voted down, an election will be called within three months to pick a new assembly to draft a new constitution.

Even if the charter is approved, the opposition say it is a recipe for trouble since it has not received broad consensus backing from the population.

hc,bk/dr (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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