UPDATE 3: Egyptians vote on second day of constitution referendum

MENA, Ahram Online, Lamia Hassan, Wednesday 15 Jan 2014

Polling stations across Egypt opened Wednesday morning and will receive voters 9am-9pm (CLT); long lines in some stations and delays in others; armed attack on station in Giza

A woman casts her ballot in the final stage of a referendum on Egypt's new constitution in Cairo, January 15, 2014 (Photo: Mai Shaheen)

Egypt's interior ministry said Wednesday that polling station across the nation are secure, as Egyptian voters cast their ballots on the second and last referendum day on the draft constitution.

Tens of thousands of police and army soldiers were deployed across the country to guard the proceedings amid fears of renewed violence after Tuesday's deadly clashes in several cities left at least nine dead.

A security source told state news agency MENA that army and police personnel have taken up their positions across Egypt's polling stations to "secure citizens, judges and everyone supervising the elections."

Minister of State for Administrative Development Hany Mahmoud said Wednesday that a random sample of voter turnout in 40 polling stations shows that an approximate 28 percent cast their ballot on Tuesday.

Mahmoud, in statements to private satellite TV channel CBC Extra, said that the percentage is not official but represents an indicator of the turnout.

The number of eligible voters is 52,742,139.

The minister also said that the number of polling stations designated to those who live away from where they are registered have increased on Wednesday to reach 19 stations nationwide.

Storming attempt

Security forces were deployed in Ossim, Giza on Wednesday morning after gunmen stormed a polling station, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

Polling stations number 15, 16, and 17 at Al-Qahira preparatory school in Ossim came under attack.

A Brotherhood supporter was shot dead in the area on Tuesday.

Voting was temporarily suspended at Ossim's Al-Mansouriya polling station on Tuesday after clashes erupted between pro-Brotherhood protesters and security forces.

Lines, delays and clashes

As the second day began smoothly outside Cairo, MENA reported that long lines of voters awaited stations to open at 9am in order to cast ballots.

However, aaccording to the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights and other monitoring NGOs, the first hours witnessed a lower turnout compared to the first day of the referendum, 

Reports came in about delays in the southern governorates of Luxor and Aswan, as several supervising judges were late to arrive in about 60 stations collectively.

In Cairo's neighbouring Giza Governorate, hundreds turned out in the early morning at several polling stations, with large numbers of women and the elderly reported, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website said.

"Look around you at all the people who are here that early to vote. I am optimistic about the results and hopefully it will pass without more violence," Mary Salah, a student told Ahram Online's reporter outside a polling station in Dokki, Giza.

In the northern Sharqiya Governorate, over a dozen administrators were excluded from stations for directing voters to vote against the charter, Governor Said Abdel-Aziz told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website. Turnout in the governorate on the first day of polling was about 40 percent, he said.

Back in Cairo, tens of pro-Brotherhood protesters, who oppose the referendum, blocked the Cairo Metro on Wednesday afternoon as they marched along the track of the southern Ain Helwan station, right before the end of the Metro line. As a result, trains stopped running the last two stations on the Helwan line.

Supporters of the ousted president have also continued protests and organised human chains on Wednesday in several cities outside the capital to call for a boycott of the referendum.

Police in east Alexandria have dispersed clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and local residents, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

The clashes started on Wednesday afternoon when Morsi supporters called for a boycott of the referendum and chanted against the military.

They also torched a police car.

Three people were arrested after being found in possession of leaflets condemning the army and the interior ministry, Alexandria investigation bureau chief said.

Morsi supporters torched a traffic booth in Roxy Square in Cairo's upscale Heliopolis district on Wednesday afternoon.

The protesters – numbering around 500 – blocked the square, bringing traffic to a standstill, and torched 'yes to the constitution' banners. They quickly dispersed following confrontations with the police. 

Ministry warns

A security source affirmed to MENA that all ballot boxes had been safely preserved overnight at their designated stations.

On Tuesday night, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told private satellite TV channel Al-Hayat that "anyone who contemplates meddling with the referendum ballot boxes once they are closed [for the night] will be shot with live ammunition."

The interior ministry issued a statement on its official Facebook account stating that 249 were arrested nationwide on Tuesday.

Despite the sporadic clashes, many voters across the nation remained celebratory and cheerful on the first voting day, with most endorsing the national charter -- a recently-amended version of the 2012 constitution that has been billed as the first step in a wider political transition following Morsi's ouster last July.

Final results and exact turnout figures should be revealed in the early hours of Thursday.

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