16 Dec 2012

First day of Egypt referendum vote held

6:05 pm on 16 December 2012

Voting is over in Egypt in the first stage of a referendum on a new constitution, after a high turnout.

Saturday's ballot took place in Cairo, Alexandria and eight other provinces, a week before the rest of the country. Voting was earlier extended to 11pm.

Some 250,000 security personnel were deployed to safeguard the referendum in which more than 51 million people are registered to vote.

The BBC reports the ballot appeared to be going smoothly.

In Alexandria, long queues formed at polling stations and voters complained about the waiting time.

In Mahalla, a city in the Delta, the BBC says polling stations were heaving with people, with heated political discussions outside the voting booths.

A second day of voting will be held next Saturday. Human rights groups have expressed fears that results from the first round could sway the opinion of those voting in the second.

A constitution must be in place before elections can be held early next year.

A BBC correspondent said the ballot paper asks if Egyptians support or oppose the new constitution.

The National Salvation Front earlier opposed the referendum, but this week said its supporters should go to the ballot boxes to vote "no".

President Mohammed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood have endorsed the draft document.

Opponents include liberals and others who want a more secular future for Egypt.

Unofficial tally favours Islamist constitution

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood's party that sought a "yes" vote said Egyptians voted narrowly in favour of a constitution shaped by Islamists and opposed by liberals.

The unofficial tally has the "yes" vote winning 56.5% of the vote.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party had representatives at almost all polling stations across the 10 areas, including Cairo, where this round of voting was held.

The spokesman said the tally was based on counts from more than 99% of polling stations.

Reuters reports that official results are not expected until after the second round of voting next weekend is completed.