Saturday, 19 March 2011

Large turnout for Egypt's constitutional referendum!!!

Long queues are reported at polling stations across Egypt for a referendum on constitutional reforms.
The vote is the first practical result of the uprising which swept President Hosni Mubarak from power last month.
A BBC correspondent in Cairo says that for most Egyptians, this is the first genuinely free vote in their lives.
A large crowd attacked Nobel Peace Price winner and opposition figurehead Mohamed ElBaradei as he tried to cast his vote at a polling station in Cairo.
"We don't want you, we don't want you," a crowd of youths chanted while hurling stones at his car, according to the Reuters news agency.
It is not clear if Mr ElBaradei was prevented from casting his vote.
Constitutional overhaul If approved, the constitutional changes would pave the way for Egypt to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections within six months.
Among the key proposals are:
  • Reducing presidential terms from six years to four years and limiting the president to two terms
  • Obliging the president to choose a deputy within 30 days of election
  • Installing new criteria for presidential candidates, including a rule that they must be over 40 years old and not married to a non-Egyptian
The two established political blocs, the National Democratic Party and Muslim Brotherhood, back the proposals.
But pro-democracy activists say the changes do not go far enough and want the plan rejected.

At the scene

More than 2,000 people are standing in an orderly line waiting to vote in the well-off neighbourhood of Zamalek. It is taking up to three hours to get to the front of the queue and it is a hot day, but still, spirits are high. "I am so excited," says Nermeen Badayr, 53. "Last night I prepared my clothes like a child going to school on the first day. This is the first time I have ever voted in Egypt. I didn't care who was winning and losing in elections before as it was all pre-prepared."
"I feel that I have a voice and I am free. I am so proud," says Asmaa Abbas, 23. She smiles with satisfaction as she shows off her finger dipped in mauve ink to prove she has cast her ballot.
Volunteers help the elderly into the polling station at a government school and there are many spontaneous signs of camaraderie. When an old, working-class man in a long galabiya robe is spotted looking confused, a smartly-dressed young woman leaps forward to explain how to fill in his voting paper and hands him a silver pen from her designer handbag.
They say the constitution needs to be entirely rewritten before elections can be held.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, who emerged as an opposition figurehead during the uprising, said the referendum dealt only with "minutiae".
"It doesn't talk about the imperial power of the president, it doesn't talk about the distortion of the parliament, it doesn't talk about the need to have an independent constituent assembly that represents everybody," he said in comments carried by AFP news agency.
"So we are going to say no. Most of the people who triggered the revolution are going to say no."
The scholars who drafted the changes did not radically overhaul presidential powers because they said the next parliament should entirely rewrite the constitution.
Analysts say the two main political blocs stand to benefit from early elections because dozens of smaller parties set up following the uprising have yet to fully organise themselves.
Mr Mubarak stood down in February after 18 days of popular protests, largely centred on Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Crowds of activists once again crammed Tahrir Square on Friday, this time to protest against the referendum.

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