Relive: Egyptians turn out for key constitution vote

Hazel Haddon, Passant Darwish, Ayat El-Tawy, Sayed Gamal El-Din, Lamia Hassan, Salma Hegab, Zeinab Guindy, Fouad Mansour, Salma Shukrallah , Tuesday 14 Jan 2014

In the first electoral test since Mohamed Morsi's ouster, Egyptians go to the polls to vote on a new constitution

An Egyptian man casts his vote in the country's constitutional referendum in the upscale Zamalek neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 (Photo: AP)

For the second part of Ahram Online's live coverage of the day, click here.

15:30 Ahram Online reporter Salma Hegab reports that voter turnout is very low at Ahmed Maher Experimental School, a women’s-only polling station in the eastern Cairo district of Hadayek El-Kobba. However, Hegab says that the women who turned up are cheering, and that there is a car in front of the polling station blasting pro-army songs.

Reda Ismail, a local jeweller near the station, told Hegab that the low turnout is because of the high number of polling stations available to voters for this referendum. The referendum is more organised than any others in the past, he said, which has dispersed the voters more evenly amongst the polling stations.

15:15 The Ministry of Justice has received a notification from a Giza court that voting has been temporarily halted in the polling stations of the Awsim district in Mansoureya, where clashes have been ongoing.
Morsi supporters have been holding demonstrations in front of polling stations and have clashed with security forces.

15:00 The interior ministry has confirmed the violence in Nahya, Giza, earlier today, saying that one person was killed, two injured, and ten arrested in clashes outside a polling station.

14:55 Three people have been killed in Upper Egypt's Sohag governorate in a pro-Brotherhood march, a security source told Al-Ahram Arabic.
Police fired teargas to disperse the crowd and heavy gunfire was reported. It's unclear how the violence started. Four other people have been reportedly injured.

14:40 The National Salvation Front will probably dissolve itself after the constitution referendum, according to El-Sayed El-Badawi, head of the liberal Wafd Party and a leading member of the group.
The coalition of leftist and liberal political parties was originally founded over a year ago to oppose Mohamed Morsi.

After casting his vote, El-Badawi told Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website that “the front was mainly formed to protest against (ousted president) Mohamed Morsi’s rule and the 2012 constitution, and now that we have got rid of both of them, it only makes sense that the parties that formed the front would now dissolve it.”

The head of Egypt’s oldest liberal party added that leaders of the front’s political parties will meet within the next few days to determine its fate.

14:30 An Ahram Online reporter on the ground in Agouza in Giza said that some polling stations in the area seem relatively empty, with no queues outside. The army presence is still relatively high, however.

14:20 Al-Ahram Arabic website has reported that a judge in Al-Sultan Badawy School in Damietta has been removed from his position supervising a polling station after reports that he had been directing people to vote “no” to the constitution.

In Menoufiya governorate in the Nile Delta, the committee overseeing the elections has prevented the head of a local fertiliser committee from entering polling stations after he directed farmers to vote “no” in the referendum, threatening not to give fertilizers to those who vote “yes”.

14:15 From a polling station in Upper Egypt’s Qena, a judicial source supervising the poll tells Ahram Online that turnout for the morning is around 10-15 percent, which is high compared with previous elections.

Qena witnessed a 22 percent turnout rate in the previous constitutional referendum in December 2012, over the whole day’s voting.

14:10 In Giza's middle-class district of Haram, the atmosphere is festive, with some voters holding aloft "yes" banners and Egyptian flags, and others signing a popular pro-army song, Ahram Online’s Bassem Abo Alabass said.

Hundreds queue at a polling station in Haram (Photo: Bassem Abo Alabass)

He added that the number of women and the elderly is noticeably high.

"I voted ‎'yes 'for Egypt. 'No' means destruction," Mostafa Hassan, 65, from Upper Egypt's Assiut told Ahram Online.
Voters queuing nearby outside one of the stations chanted "the people want the execution of the Brotherhood,” and slogans supporting army chief General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

14:00 A pro-Morsi protester, Hassan El-Aqabawy, was killed in Nahya in Giza, eyewitnesses told Al-Ahram Arabic, during the clashes that took place earlier in the day. AO has not yet been able to confirm the death via an official source.

13:50 Some reports of irregularities coming in. An electoral monitoring room has received reports that supervising judges at some polling stations were urging voters to vote against the charter, head of the Egyptian cabinet's Information and Decision Centre Sherif Badr told state news agency MENA.

Other incidents reported where individuals in impoverished villages reportedly offered to give voters blankets in exchange for their identification cards, to prevent them from voting.

In the other camp, Ahram Online reporters on the ground in Greater Cairo have noted lots of examples of prominent "vote yes" posters being displayed, often alongside pictures of El-Sisi, outside polling stations, which is a violation of the electoral law.

13:40 The Supreme Electoral Committee has released its first statement of the day, saying that it has opened extra polling stations for voters who are not currently close to their registered addresses, due to the high turnout rate. We heard reports of extra polling stations being opened in Matrouh earlier this afternoon; according to the SEC, extra polling stations were also opened in Sharm El-Sheikh, Suez city and Obour city.
According to the statement, the vast majority of the polling stations opened at 9am as expected.

The commission received complaints from some stations that the process was going slowly, and so sent extra judges and civil servants to assist them.

13:30 Security forces have dispersed a pro-Morsi protest in Giza’s Haram district. According to Al-Ahram Arabic website, an unknown person fired bullets in the air.

13:25 Two urgent polling stations for voters not currently located near their registered addresses have been opened in the coastal city of Matrouh, on Egypt's Mediterranean coast, Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported.
A local official said the move came in response to the increasingly high turnout.

13:20  According to reports and Ahram reporters on the ground, voting seems to be taking place without disruption or clashes in most polling stations nationwide. The clashes that we've been reporting seem, so far, to be isolated incidents.

13:10 A video from Welad El-Balad news, an independent local news organisation, showing voters turning out in Mansoura.


13:00 Recent clashes between Morsi supporters and security forces in the town of Nahya in Giza have calmed down now. With the assistance of local residents, security forces reopened one of the polling stations that had been closed for 20 minutes, Al-Ahram Arabic website reported.

12:50 Scores of students supporting the Muslim Brotherhood set tyres on fire and blocked a road near Al-Azhar University in Cairo’s Nasr City district, Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported.
Security forces dispersed the protesters, who shouted anti-police and anti-army slogans. Several were arrested as riot police chased protesters into side streets.

The prestigious Islamic university has been the scene of frequent protests by Morsi supporters since his ouster.

12:40 In Alexandria, there have been more clashes reported. Security forces dispersed a demonstration held in Sidi Bishr by pro-Morsi protesters calling for a boycott of the referendum, reported Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website. Clashes ensued between protesters and security.

12:30 Back in Giza’s Dokki, a number of voters at different stations told Ahram Online they were surprised at the high turnout, especially so early in the day.
Voters mostly refrained from discussing their ballots while waiting in line for their turn to vote.
At one station, several voters requested a driver remove his car which was parked near the queue, demonstrating worry after a spate of car bombings since Morsi’s ouster.

12:20 Ahram Online’s Salma Hegab cast her vote at Abbas Al-Aqqad polling station in Nasr City, where there was a low turnout of generally middle class voters, who interacted respectfully with the army personnel securing the polling station. Most said they would vote “yes.”

On the other hand, a high turnout of male and female voters from all backgrounds was reported by Hegab at the Al-Gamaa Al-Ommaliya (Labour University) polling station in the same area. As they awaited their turns in extremely long queues, the voters chanted “the army and people are one hand” as well as pro-Sisi slogans.

12:15 Former presidential candidate and founding member of the Egyptian Popular Current Hamdeen Sabbahi could not cast his ballot on Tuesday as his name was not registered in the polling station associated with his address, Al-Ahram Arabic reported.

The Nasserist figure expressed surprise as he had voted in all the polls after the 2011 revolution at the same polling station. He said that when he searched for his registered polling station online he found that he was registered as an expat voter in Saudi Arabia in Jeddah.

Sabbahi stated earlier this week that he stands by his decision to run in the coming presidential race regardless of whether army chief El-Sisi will or not. Sabbahi came third in the 2012 presidential elections, which were won by Mohamed Morsi.

12:10 Security forces closed a polling station in Giza’s Nahya district after clashes erupted at 7am when a demonstration marching from the Qantara Mosque passed by a polling station where security had been deployed. Security forces fired teargas and the polling station was closed by an armoured vehicle, reported Al-Ahram Arabic.

12:05 Security is tight at El-Borg polling station in Cairo’s affluent Zamalek district, where there is is a high turnout of both men and women.

There are some complaints about the length of the queue and how long it is taking to vote, but the voters were generally cheerful, and most tell Ahram Online’s Sarah Rashidi that they are voting “yes.” Some people say they have taken the day off work to vote.

Mona Yehia, a woman in her 60s, told Rashidi that she was voting yes and she was confident that many Egyptians will vote. "I am sure that the turnout will pass 97 percent, like the statistics that showed 97 percent of Egyptians abroad voted yes," she said.

Samir Khalifa, 38, who works in the oil sector, told Rashidi that he would vote “yes” and that the constitution was “a work in progress" and was not perfect, but that it would be “enough for now to keep the country moving forward.

Army soldiers who are guarding the station were handing out flyers thanking voters for their cooperation and quoting a well-known comment by General El-Sisi: "Egypt is the mother of the world and will be as big as the world."

12:00 Security forces in Giza have arrested several Al Jazeera reporters covering the referendum, Al-Ahram’s Arabic website reported, seizing their cameras and equipment.
Authorities have been cracking down on the Qatar-based network following Morsi's ouster in July, accusing it of biased coverage in favour of his Muslim Brotherhood.
The network’s offices in Egypt have been closed down since Morsi’s overthrow and at least five Al Jazeera reporters remain in custody.

11:50 One person has been killed in clashes between Morsi supporters and security forces in Nasser town in Upper Egypt’s Beni Sueif governorate, a medical source told Ahram Online reporter Sayed Gamal. Egyptian daily Masry Al-Youm has reported that the person killed was trying to break into a polling station.

11:45 Elsewhere in the Nile Delta, Al-Ahram Arabic reports, explosives experts have defused five primitive bombs near a school in Sadat City in Menoufiya, some 94 kilometres north-west of Cairo.

11:30 In Damietta governorate on the Mediterranean coast, security forces dispersed pro-Morsi demonstrations in the districts of Khayata and Shatt Gereiba. Teargas bombs were fired at protesters as they tried to head to the polling stations, reported Al-Ahram Arabic website.

11:20 There is heightened security in North Sinai as polls get underway.

The governorate has seen a disproportionate share of violence since the July ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, with regular terrorist attacks on state buildings and personnel. Dozens of police and military forces have been killed.

Internet, mobile networks and landline telephone services resumed at 9am in the region, after being cut off for four hours early Tuesday as a security measure, reported Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website.

11:15 In Nile Delta city of Mansoura, where a terrorist bomb attack killed 16 in December, voters queued in considerable numbers across several stations almost an hour before the polls opened.

Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported that army and police forces have been deployed to guard the station, and barred any vehicles or passersby from circulating in the vicinity unless they were heading to the polls.

11:10 Having earlier cast his vote, President Adly Mansour has urged people to vote in a statement on national television.

Adly Mansour
Adly Mansour cast his vote (Photo: Al-Ahram)

“The nation should prove to terrorists that it is not afraid,” he said adding that the vote will not only be in favour of the constitution but for a roadmap for the future.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has been inspecting polling stations in Cairo and Giza. He has so far visited stations in Maadi, Zamalek and Agouza -- all affluent districts.

10:55 In the vicinity of Rabaa Al-Adawiya Mosque in Nasr City -- where Morsi supporters held a six-week long protest camp in August demanding his reinstatement before they were violently dispersed by security forces -- Ahram Online’s Salma Hegab said turnout was low at the Abdel-Aziz Gawish School polling station compared to other stations in the area.

Unlike some polling stations where female and male voters are segregated into separate queues which advance from opposite directions and go into separate rooms to cast their votes, this polling station is open to both genders. The women here are of all ages while the men are mostly elderly, sitting on folding chairs as they await their turn. The voters who spoke to Ahram Online all said they will say “yes” to the constitution.

Riding on a public bus, Ahram Online’s reporter witnessed a fight break out between female Morsi supporters boycotting the referendum and women who supported the constitution, following a discussion about the vote. The anti-Morsi women initiated the physical aggression.

10:45 Pope Tawadros II, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, was the first to cast his ballot at a station in central Cairo's Abbasiya district.


Coptic Pope Tawadros II shows his ink-stained finger after voting in the country's constitutional referendum at a polling station in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 (Photo: AP)


In recent comments he said he would be voting in favour of the charter, saying that the charter "will bring Egypt much prosperity and a lot of blessings."

10:40 Back to Giza's Dokki, where Ahram Online's Lamia Hassan reports that although the female-only Abou Bakr Al-Seddik polling station opened right on time, long queues had already formed by then, with a separate line for the elderly, whom the judges are allowing in first.

Women of all ages and walks of life are standing in line. Some say they feel optimistic and excited about the process, adding that their concerns regarding their safety have not prevented them from joining the queues “for the sake of Egypt,” although the explosion outside a Cairo court earlier today has made them suspicious of any movement on the street.

Outside a mixed-sex polling station in a Dokki school, women and men queue in separate lines, with the number of female voters discernibly larger, Hassan added.

Women queue at polling station in Giza's Dokki district (Photo:Lamia Hassan)

10:30 Mohamed Ibrahim, a lawyer who was at the court at the time of the explosion, tells Ahram Online angrily that he is definitely voting “yes”, seeing it as a move against the Muslim Brotherhood.

10:20 At the scene in Imbaba where an explosion took place a few hours ago, an Ahram Online reporter says the main road on which the North Giza Court is located, Sudan Street, is blocked to traffic as firefighters and construction workers attempt to repair the damaged building.

There is a crowd of a few dozen people on the scene who are chanting in support of El-Sisi and holding up a  banner campaigning for a “yes” vote.

A polling station located 50 metres away from the explosion, at Al-Shahid Gawad Hosni school, has a queue of hundreds of voters waiting outside.

Hundreds queue at a polling station in Imbaba located metres away from a court where a bomb exploded a few hours ago (Photo: Fouad Mansour)

10:15 Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi cast his ballot early on Tuesday at Selehdar school in Cairo’s Heliopolis. In a press statement following the vote, El-Beblawi urged people not to be afraid, saying that maximum security has been deployed to secure the vote. Interim President Adly Mansour has also cast his vote, also in Heliopolis.

10:10 Army chief General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi paid a visit to Al-Kholafaa Al-Rashedin polling station in Heliopolis where he was warmly received by voters. Those serving in the military cannot vote in elections.

10:05  In Giza, hundreds of voters turned out in stations across the districts of Kerdasa and Boulak Al-Dakrour, with a noticeably higher presence of women Al-Ahram Arabic reported.
Supervising judges reportedly showed up on time at stations, which opened at 9am in both districts.

Just south of Greater Cairo, the town of Kerdasa was reportedly taken over by Islamist militants in August following an RPG attack on the police station that killed around 11 policemen, during the period of political turmoil that followed the dispersal of a major pro-Morsi protest. Police forces entered the city a month later and restored security.

10:00 The UK government has expressed its support for the presidential and parliamentary elections which will be held in Egypt if the constitution is endorsed.

"The UK continues to support the Egyptian people to choose their government in elections in 2014,” a UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told Ahram Online's correspondent in London Amer Sultan.

However, the UK has repeatedly advised the Egyptian authorities to work for reconciliation and an inclusive political process after the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi.

"The UK government believes stability and security are best served in Egypt by bringing all Egyptians into the mainstream political process,” the spokesperson said.

09:50 Still in Nasr City, Ahram Online’s Salma Hegab visited Rafaa El-Tahatawy school where polling stations where less than 100 women are in a queue waiting for their turn to vote. Some of them have even brought their children. Many are saying they will vote “yes.”

09:45 Egypt’s Ministry of Interior has released a statement confirming that the explosion which took place earlier this morning at the North Giza Court in the district of Imbaba has not caused any injuries.

09:30 Ahram Online reporter Salma Hegab says that in Cairo’s Nasr City, there are fairly long queues outside polling stations.
As is normal in Egyptian elections, there are two queues - one for men, and one for women. Hegab says that many of the men she saw lined up to vote at Tawfik El-Hakim school were elderly.

According to Hegab, there is a prominent poster showing armed forces chief General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and calling on people to vote “yes” displayed opposite the polling station.

09:00 In Egypt’s second city of Alexandria, large numbers of voters queued up early in the morning at several polling stations in the east and centre of the city as voting was about to start, Al-Ahram Arabic reported.
Security forces have reportedly dispersed crowds of the Muslim Brotherhood supporters in several areas of the city to pre-empt possible marches or protests.

08:55 In Dokki, a district in Giza, queues outside closed polling stations are not very long yet, but a few people have gathered to wait, says Ahram Online reporter Lamia Hassan. She says that most of the voters are older people, and there are some chairs set out in front of the polling station for those voters who may need to rest while waiting.

Hassan reports that there is heavy security presence at the polling stations she passed so far on Behouth Street in Dokki.

08:50 Voting day started with an explosion; a bomb shattered the facade of a court in Imbaba, a district on the Giza side of the Nile, at about 7:40am. There are no reported injuries.

Egypt has seen a number of bomb attacks since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi last July. Most have been in Sinai, but a blast on 24 December outside a police building in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura killed 16 people. The authorities have linked the violence to the Muslim Brotherhood, although the group denies any connection.

It remains to be seen how the explosion will affect turnout.

A explosion damaged the North Giza Court early Tuesday (Photo: Al-Ahram)

08:45 Welcome to Ahram Online's live coverage of the first day of voting in Egypt's 2014 constitutional referendum.

This constitution is the first electoral test in the roadmap put in place by the transitional authorities that replaced Mohamed Morsi afer his ouster in July 2013.

Over 52,742,139 Egyptians are registered to vote at the polls, which will be open on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Egyptians living abroad have already cast their votes at embassies and consulates. Turnout was low, which the foreign ministry attributed to the scrapping of postal votes. 

The last time Egyptians went to the polls was in December 2012 -- to vote on a new constitution, written by an assembly that critics said was dominated by Islamists. That constitution was approved by voters, and remained in place until Morsi's ouster in July 2013, when it was suspended.

The new document was drafted in the months following Morsi's exit, and finalised in December. For analysis of the differences between the previous charter and the one which Egyptians will be voting on this time round, see here.

It seems likely that the "yes" vote will be substantial; unlike last year, the "no" campaign has been almost invisible. Most liberal and leftist parties support the constitution.

The Strong Egypt Party, which supported Morsi's ouster but has since criticised the transitional authorities, has condemned what it described as a "crackdown" on those campaigning for a "no" vote, and decided to boycott the poll in protest.Other groups opposed to the constitution include the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, a Muslim Brotherhood-led coalition, which will be boycotting the vote.

Polls are due to open at 9am.

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