Divided Egypt set to vote on controversial charter

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Cairo, Dec 15: Egypt is set to reportedly vote in a referendum on the controversial charter on Saturday amid reports of clashes between the supporters of President Mohammed Morsi and those opposing the draft constitution.

Around 2,50,000 security personnel have been pressed into action to oversee the two-stage voting over the Islamist draft constitution that will see over 51 million people participating. The constitution is expected to seal the fate of the nation that has witnessed deep polarisation after President Morsi took over.

The voting will begin at 8.00 in Alexandria. The other 10 governorates where the first stage of voting will take place include Cairo, Daqahlia, Sharqiya, Assiut, Sohag, Aswan, Gharbiya, North Sinai and South Sinai, state-run MENA news agency said. It was decided to organise the polling over a few days for there were few number of judges ready to overlook the referendum, the report said.

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Clashes broke out between the supporters and opponents of the referendum outside the Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria on Friday following the prayers during which the preacher expressed support for the constitution. Seventeen people were injured after both sides started pelting stones at each other. Earlier, several anti-constitution protesters had assembled outside the mosque.

The second stage of the voting will take place on Dec 22 in the remaining 17 governorates. The National Salvation Front of the opposition groups demonstrated at the presidential palace and Cairo's famous Tahrir Square on Friday, after asking its supporters to vote "no" instead of boycotting the referendum. The opponents feel the draft constitution excessively stress Islamic law and want to see more importance to be given to rights and freedoms. They particularly want more rights for workers and women.

On Nov 30, Egypt's Constituent Assembly approved the draft constitution imposing Islamic values following a marathon session. Liberals said the constitution restricts freedom of press and religion in the country.

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