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Elections

Referendum reflects Egypt's divisions

There have been charges of voting irregularities in Egypt's constitutional referendum. Some were riddled with worry when they went to the polls, like young artist Ahmed Gaafary, who voted in Cairo.

"The whole system is wrong," said Ahmed Gaafary. He did not want to vote, but a friend convinced him to join her in the vote on Egypt's new constitution. Gaafary is tall and wears his curly hair pulled back in a ponytail. The 26-year-old artist was certain he would reject the new constitution. One of the assemblies dominated by Islamists wrote it up quickly, he noted. "It's wrong the way the constitution was drafted," he said.

"I'm disappointed, and I'm worried that there will be restrictions to freedom of speech and opinion if the constitution is passed," Gaafary added, lowering his head in evident concern.

"When I heard the extent to which the results of the first round of the referendum were rigged, I was quite convinced that my vote would not affect the end results anyway," he recalled.

But Gaafary went to a school in Cairo's Giza district to cast his vote nonetheless. Three soldiers and three policemen in black uniforms were guarding the door.

People to wait in line outiside a polling station in Giza, south of Cairo
Copyright: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

People wait in line outiside a polling station in Giza, south of Cairo

The country is divided

Ahmed Gaafary showed his identification and entered the building. Others joined him - old women, young men, mothers with children in their arms, adults who helped their older relatives. "Of course I'm voting for the constitution because it's a good thing," an old woman said simply.

The referendum has divided the country. Nearly everyone on the street talks about the political situation - about President Mohammed Morsi, about the constitution, about the uncertainty many share.

On Friday, December 21, 2012, proponents and opponents of the constitution battled on the streets of Alexandria. More than 77 people were hurt in the clashes.

In mid-December, around 31-percent of Egyptians eligible to vote in ten provinces cast their vote during the first round of the referendum. Members of the opposition against Morsi decided not to boycott the election, but to vote instead and try to voice their rejection of the constitution.

The first unofficial results came through, with some 57 percent having voted in favor of the constitution.

During the second round of voting on Saturday (22.12.2012), many people voted in rural provinces where the Muslim Brotherhood is very popular. Polling stations were kept open four hours longer - into Saturday evening - due to the storm of people wanting to vote.

No power in 100 polling stations

Egyptian riot police try to quell clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohammed Morsi in the city of Alexandria on December 21, 2012
Copryright: Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images

Protests in Alexandria accompanied Saturday's vote

But opposition members were already accusing the constitution's supporters of interfering with the vote while polling stations were still open.

Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose political arm is the Freedom and Justice Party, was accused of rigging the election during the first round of voting, and using propaganda to lead voters to vote for the constitution during the second round.

The Egyptian newspaper "Al Ahram" reported that members of the Salafist Al-Nour party and the Freedom and Justice Party were promoting the constitution in front of the polls. Posters were also allegedly hung up on site, and a few polling stations stayed open later than scheduled.

Non-governmental organizations, including the groups "April 6 Youth Movement" and the "Judges' Club," collected grievances about irregularities at the polls. The April 6 group said there were power outages at 100 different polling stations in the provinces of Monufia and Kafr-El-Sheikh.

The battle continues

Ahmed Gaafary voted nonetheless, with election officials dunking his index finger in permanent ink as proof of his voting. Afterward, he took a taxi to the center of Cairo, the driver telling Gaafary that he, too, voted against the constitution. The driver said he wanted to promote a civil state.

Gaafary met friends at a café just one hundred meters away from Tahrir Square. Many of them were wounded during the latest conflicts in front of the presidential palace, and presume that the conflict surrounding Egypt is still far from over.

Unofficial results showed Sunday that over 60 percent of voters had decided in favor of the constitution draft. Official results are expected Monday.

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