However, opponents of the constitution prevailed in two provinces – including the capital cairo. The country is divided. According to forecasts, only one in three eligible voters took part in the popular vote. The second round follows in a week.
The opposition complained of numerous electoral law violations – and called for a repeat of the previous day’s vote. Eight groups complained sunday at a press conference in cairo that voters had been harassed with religious propaganda and observers had been prevented from entering polling stations. The director general of the cairo institute for human rights studies, bahai ed-din hassan, also pointed out that several polling stations had closed before the announced time.
On election day, there had also been several reports of intimidation of opposition members and christians by bearded men. In alexandria, according to the newspaper "al-ahram", salafists even took over the election supervision at a school and told voters to vote yes. Reports that 26 polling stations in four provinces were not supervised by judges as required were dismissed by the ministry of justice.
The debate over the first constitution after the fall of long-term president husni mubarak has been dividing people in the most populous arab country for weeks now. Again and again there were mass protests and deadly riots.
While in eight of ten provinces the rulebook has now been approved, in the capital cairo most voted no. A slim majority in gharbija province is also said to have voted against the draft. There is also the industrial city of mahalla, where the opposition is traditionally very strong.
In the remaining provinces – including alexandria, the sinai peninsula and aswan – most voters voted yes, according to data published by the muslim brotherhood on its freedom and justice party website. Official results are not expected until after the second round on april 22. December to be announced.
The opposition sees the draft constitution as the first step toward a state of god and a stricter interpretation of sharia law. Many of president mohammed mursi’s supporters want just that.
Nobel peace prize winner and opposition politician mohammed elbaradei took the results as an opportunity to appeal to mursi. He pointed out that more than 40 percent had voted against the constitution. The nation is increasingly divided and the foundations of the state are tottering, he tweeted. Will mursi now realize that he must be the head of state of all egyptians??
The bitter directional dispute between islamists and the opposition had drawn voters to polling stations in droves on saturday, especially in the big cities. 26 million men and women were eligible to vote. Due to the rush, the polling stations remained open four hours longer. To avoid clashes between islamists and opposition members, 300,000 security forces were deployed, including 130,000 police officers.
There were incidents nevertheless. In cairo, for example, violence erupted in the evening when hundreds of islamists surrounded the headquarters of the liberal wafd party. They attacked the building with firecrackers and stones, as seen in a video posted on the internet by the party. Gunshots were also heard. Security forces eventually intervened.
If the draft constitution is approved, a new parliament must be elected within two months. The first lower house elected after the fall of mubarak was dissolved by a court in summer. There, the islamists had a clear majority of about 70 percent – they are unlikely to achieve such a result again in 2013.