Sunday 24 September 2017

Police arrest 79 after second day of voting on Egyptian constitution

A woman casts her ballot in the referendum
A woman casts her ballot in the referendum

Sameh Bardis, Cairo

Polls across Egypt closed last night after a second and final day of voting on a draft constitution that could pave the way for a presidential bid by army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Voting passed off more peacefully than on Tuesday, when nine people were killed, but officials said police arrested at least 79 people yesterday during protests by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Mursi, removed from power by Gen Sisi in July.

State media reported that polls had closed, counting had begun and unofficial results could filter out within hours.

The constitution was expected to be approved easily. There has been little sign of opposition to it following a fierce government crackdown on Mr Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, and human rights groups said campaigns for a "no" vote had been repressed.

The draft constitution deletes Islamic language written into the basic law approved a year ago, when Mr Mursi was still in office. It also strengthens the state bodies that defied him: the army, the police and the judiciary.

Gen Sisi, who deposed Mr Mursi after mass protests against his rule, appeared to link a decision on his presidential bid to the result. Analysts said his candidacy appeared to be a foregone conclusion.

Officials have not indicated when the results of the poll will be announced.

The army-backed authorities said turnout was strong, but supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood said their calls for a boycott of a "sham" vote had been observed.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights criticised the Egyptian media for "stoking hatred towards the Brotherhood" and contributing to a climate of intimidation.

The referendum is a key step in the political transition plan the interim government has billed as a path to democracy as it continues to take fierce measures against the Brotherhood, Egypt's best organised party until last year.

The government last month declared the group to be a "terrorist organisation". Al Qa'ida-inspired militants have stepped up attacks on security forces since Mr Mursi's removal.

Irish Independent

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