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Mistrust runs deep over Egypt referendum

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 16, 2012 at 4:16 pm •  Published: December 16, 2012

"He even asked one voter what she voted," she said. When told "no," he shut down for another break, she said.

"The country is split into two. We too are Muslims. Why are they labeling us infidels" for rejecting the charter, said Abdel-Azim, a teacher.

Standing in the same line, Mervat Ahmed, a 42-year woman wearing a veil that left only her eyes visible — a sign of the most conservative Muslims — got angry when an acquaintance called her to urge her to vote "yes."

"No, don't tell me this. I am still voting no," she shouted into the phone. Explaining herself, she said: "I am not convinced by this constitution. The president has great powers. I don't want to wait more years to try to strip him of this power. We will not be able to by that time."

By the end of the day, only 2,873 of the 6,500 women registered in Rushdi district were able to vote. The "no" vote overwhelmingly carried the neighborhood, with only 552 "yes" votes.

Amina Fouad, a 43-year-old self-employed businesswoman, said the district's turnout seemed higher to her. She and her daughter passed by the station four times waiting for the line to die down before finally deciding to wait to vote.

She said she was voting "no" ''to clear my conscience, but she expected the "yes" to win. "It is a joke. I don't trust them," she said.

Most of the country's judges, who normally supervise elections, boycotted the referendum. Opposition voters accused the judges who did participate of being biased, saying some influenced people to vote "yes." Other voters Saturday also reported suspected Brotherhood members inside polling stations urging people to vote in favor of the charter.

Some judges, in turn, complained that they were overburdened because of the boycott, causing long waits.

Ghozlan alleged the opposition had also committed voting violations, such campaigning in stations against the charter. He said his group will file its own complaints to the referendum commission.

For Islamists, the constitution is the keystone for their ambitions to bring Islamic rule, a goal they say is justified by their large victory in last winter's parliamentary elections.

The opposition had demanded Morsi cancel the referendum because the draft was passed by Islamists in the Constituent Assembly amid a boycott by secular, liberal and Christian members. For opponents, the draft threatens the notion of moderate Islam Egypt had adopted for decades. They fear it will torpedo many freedoms, from the rights of women and minorities to freedoms of expression and labor organizing.

At a press conference Sunday, representatives of seven rights groups denounced the vote, saying it was carried out without sufficient guarantees of fairness. They said they had reports some polling centers closed earlier than scheduled and that in some cases Christians were denied entry to polls and women were prevented from voting. They said they had reports of individuals falsely identifying themselves as judges.

Negad Borai, the head of one of the groups, said the election commission did not investigate thousands of complaints on alleged violations and irregularities.

On his Twitter account, Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt's best known reform leader, questioned whether a vote held "under insufficient judicial supervision, clearly tenuous security and the violence and violations we are witnessing" could lead to stability.

The National Council for Human Rights, a state agency, also said that vote-buying took place outside polling centers and that some independent monitors were turned away from polling stations.

While the charges are serious, they don't touch the wholesale vote fraud that defined Mubarak's 29-year rule.

In Alexandria's middle-class el-Shatbi neighborhood, a group of women complained that their ballots were not stamped, raising concerns that the votes wouldn't be counted.

Habiba el-Sayed, a 49-year-old housewife, screamed at the line as she walked out of the station, urging other women to ensure that their ballots were stamped.

"For two hours, people voted without stamped ballots. Beware," she screamed.


Associated Press writer Hamza Hendawi contributed to this report.