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Enthusiastic Egyptians line up to vote on constitutional reform

Saturday March 19, 2011 07:46:01 PM, DPA

Cairo: Egyptians formed long queues outside polling stations in Cairo Saturday to vote, for the first time since president Hosni Mubarak was ousted, on a constitutional reform referendum that many believe will decide the fate of the revolution.

"For the first time, I bring my wife and family to vote. Now we feel it is a real election, without fraud," said businessman Ahmed Haroun.

People headed to polling stations across Egypt in groups, with their families and friends - an uncommon scene in a country where for decades elections have been marred by allegations of fraud.

"This is the first time I feel my vote will be counted and my voice heard," said marketing executive Aya Assaf, as she waited outside a polling station in Cairo's north-eastern neighbourhood of Heliopolis.

Arab League chief Amr Mussa hailed the huge turnout as he joined hundreds of voters within the first hour of polling in Cairo.

"It is important people are coming," he told reporters. "I am happy."

An estimated 40 million of Egypt's 80-million-strong population are eligible to vote either yes or no on a package of constitutional amendments, which would ease restrictions on who can run for president, make it more arduous for a president to continue the current state of emergency, and set term limits on the presidency.

An activist went to several polling stations to warn voters against ballots that are not officially stamped. However, the Supreme Judicial Commission to oversee the referendum said on Twitter that "unstamped ballots have no effect, the presence of judges in the stations assures the validity of the ballots".

Civil rights groups and legal experts have criticized the amendments, saying they were hastily written and do not ensure an end to the era where presidential powers often trumped constitutional parameters.

A fierce debate has brewed for weeks in Egypt about whether the country is in need of an entirely new constitution - rather than an amended one - before legislative elections can take place.

Activists have been campaigning for a no vote, saying new political parties need more time to organize under an entirely new constitution.

The proponents of the amendments largely include those in Mubarak's former National Democratic Party and their biggest rival, the Muslim Brotherhood. Both have said voting in favour of the amendments will ensure a quick transition of power to civilian rule
and stability.

The referendum is being monitored by thousands of judges and civil society groups, which had been largely curtailed under Mubarak's nearly 30-year rule.

Polling stations in most of the country are expected to close at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT).

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

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Picture of the Day

President of India Mrs. Pratibha Devisingh Patil addressing at the inauguration of the National Festival of Tribal Dances, ‘PRAKRITI’, in New Delhi on March 16, 2011. Union Minister for Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Culture, Kum. Selja, Union Minister for Tribal Affairs Kantilal Bhuria and Minister of State for Tribal Affairs Mahadev S. Khandela are also seen.

(Photo: Mukesh Kumar)

 

 
 
 
 
 

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