Egyptians Flood Polls, Vote on Constitutional Changes
The vote, however, has split the country, which united in January to oust former president Hosni Mubarak, between those who think the changes are enough and those who think more drastic changes are needed.
The Muslim Brotherhood, a well organised Islamist group, has come out in favour of the amendments, setting it at odds with secular groups and prominent reform advocates including Mohamed ElBaradei and Amr Moussa, both candidates for the presidency.
The military council to which Mubarak handed power on February 11 is hoping the amendments will pass so it can move along the path it has set towards parliamentary and presidential elections that will allow it to cede power to an elected government.
"This will be a watershed vote," said Ahmed Saleh, an activist now coordinating ElBaradei's presidential campaign. "People's appetite for voting is high now and change is in the air."
The military council to which Mubarak handed power on February 11 called for a strong turnout. "The goal of this referendum is to create an adequate climate for parliamentary and presidential elections but more important than the outcome is that Egyptians participate and give their voice," it said.
High turnout was expected as the ballot is for a blanket change; the vote is either “yes” or “no.” A yes vote would pave the way for presidential elections late this year or in early 2012, while a no vote would the force the military to remain in power until another means of election is reached. Nine changes in all are part of the vote.
From the Associated Press:
Egyptian elections have for decades been defined by widespread fraud designed to ensure victory for the regime.
Lack of faith in the process, along with violence and intimidation, have kept most voters away. But the trust in the system appears to have come back.
"I am very excited to be doing this," Alaa al-Sharqawy, an engineering lecturer, said as he was about to cast his vote in Cairo. "It's true that the amendments have polarized us, but I am glad we are voting."
The constitutional amendments drawn up by a panel of military-appointed legal scholars are intended to bring just enough change to the current constitution — which the military suspended after coming to power — to ensure that upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections are free and fair.
They would open the elections to independent and opposition candidates and restore full judicial supervision of votes, a measure seen as key to preventing fraud.
They would also limit presidents to two four-year terms, and curtail 30-year-old emergency laws that give police near-unlimited powers.
Potential presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei was stoned by protestors outside a polling place in Cairo when he went to go cast his vote.
"Went 2 vote w family attacked by organized thugs," ElBaradei tweeted. "Car smashed w rocks. Holding referendum in absence of law & order is an irresponsible act."
"Disgusting," ElBaradei tweeted later, in reference to two women guarding the polling place he went to.
(ElBaradei’s) brother confirmed the attack. Egyptians streamed to the polls Saturday to vote on proposed constitutional amendments, the first democratic initiative after the fall of autocratic president Hosni Mubarak's regime.
"Mr. Mohamed ElBaradei's car was attacked by thugs who threw rocks at it and prevented him from entering the Mokatam voting poll," Ali ElBaradei told CNN. "He did not vote today."
The attackers also chanted slogans against him, the brother said.
A military official told CNN he was not aware of the incident.
Preliminary results of the vote are expected Sunday.