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Egyptians cast votes in constitutional referendum

January 14, 2014, 13:40 UTC+3 CAIRO
The Arab world’s most populous country has an estimated number of eligible voters of more than 53.4 million
1 pages in this article
An Egyptian Women flashes a V for Victory sign' as she waits in line to vote outside polling station during the first day of voting on the new constitution

An Egyptian Women flashes a V for Victory sign' as she waits in line to vote outside polling station during the first day of voting on the new constitution

© EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

CAIRO, January 14. /ITAR-TASS/. Egyptians lined up early at polling stations across the country on Tuesday to cast their vote in a nationwide referendum on a new draft constitution after the previous constitution was abolished by the army last summer amid fierce protests.

Polling stations opened at 9:00 a.m. local time (7:00 a.m. GMT) amid unprecedented security measures with more than 250,000 military and police officers on duty across the country. However, despite tight security measures an explosive device was reported detonated near a court building early on Tuesday in the Egyptian capital, Cairo. No casualties were reported.

The Arab world’s most populous country has an estimated number of eligible voters of more than 53.4 million. The two-day referendum will be monitored by some 14,000 local judges and 80,000 Egyptian and foreign observers.

The referendum was already held for Egyptians living abroad and on Monday, Hisham Mokhtar, a representative for the Egyptian High Elections Committee, announced that about 95 percent of voters cast in favor of the new draft constitution. He estimated turnout at 15.1 percent, or approximately 100,000 of more than 680,000 Egyptians residing in foreign countries.

Egypt’s banned movement, Muslim Brotherhood, led by ousted and first democratically elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, rejected the draft constitution and vowed to boycott the referendum.

The draft of the constitution was submitted to Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour last December after an expert commission of 50 people debated it for two months.

The draft stipulates a new procedure for formation of the parliament, which was proposed to be made up of one chamber instead of the previous two houses. The one-chamber parliament will consist of 450 lawmakers and will be called the House of Representatives.

Two-thirds of MPs in the new parliament will be elected independent candidates, while the rest will be made up of candidates nominated by political parties. The head of state will have the right to appoint five percent of lawmakers in the parliament.

The draft also bans formation of political parties and movements on a religious basis and allows civilians to be tried by military tribunals in exceptional cases.

Egypt's nationwide referendum on the draft constitution comes as the first practical step under the roadmap drafted by the army after the ousting of President Morsi last July. It is expected to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.

The previous constitution, which was approved during the reign of Islamic fundamentalists and sparked numerous disputes and protests among the Egyptians, was annulled last summer by the military after Morsi’s deposition and the parliament’s dissolution.

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