Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fairness of Egyptian Vote Is Questioned; New Constitution Appears to Be Passing amid Alleged Irregularities in Balloting Process

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fairness of Egyptian Vote Is Questioned; New Constitution Appears to Be Passing amid Alleged Irregularities in Balloting Process

Article excerpt

CAIRO Nevine Mustafa finally had enough after 10 hours of waiting to cast her no vote in Egypts referendum on a highly disputed draft constitution. She and the other women in line were convinced the judge running the polling station was deliberately stalling to drive away voters opposed to the document.

So the housewife, 39, and dozens of other women launched a protest, blocking the street and chanting against the judge in an upper-class district of Alexandria, Egypts second-largest city.

The line was not moving since 8 a.m. I protest. It is now 7 p.m., an agitated Mustafa said at the time. He wants us to get bored and leave. After their protest, new officials were brought in to speed up the process.

The scene was a reflection of the deep distrust of Egypts ruling Islamists and their management of a referendum on a draft constitution that they largely wrote. Questions raised Sunday over the referendums legitimacy suggest the confrontation between Islamists and their secular, liberal and Christian opponents will not be resolved by the long-awaited vote.

As Islamist President Mohammed Morsi rushed the referendum despite high-pitched opposition, the dispute over the charter has turned into a fight over the Islamists hold on power, and the ballot has become a yes or no vote on the president himself.

Rights activists and opponents of the constitution said Sunday that the first round of voting a day earlier was marred by widespread violations, including suppression of voting by opponents of the charter, particularly women and Christians. A coalition of rights groups said the first round was invalid and should be held over again.

That appeared highly unlikely. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, said the constitution was en route to approval.

But the margin from the first round of voting, which took place in 10 of Egypts 27 provinces, was narrow and turnout low, at only 32 percent. …

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