Voice of America (Washington, DC)

15 January 2014

Egypt: Counting Begins After Vote for New Constitution

Egyptian officials are counting the ballots after two days of voting for a referendum on a new constitution.

Election monitors report Wednesday's voting was mostly trouble-free, although violence Tuesday between backers and opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi killed at least nine.

Official results are expected by the end of the week, but observers say there is no doubt the new constitution will be approved.

The pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood urged Egyptians to boycott the referendum, calling it illegitimate.

The new constitution would replace the pro-Islamic charter adopted in 2012 under Morsi. It strips away Islamist language and would give women greater rights and strengthen the power of the military.

Egypt's military overthrew Morsi in July when the opposition accused him of grabbing too much power.

Authorities have cracked down on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, declaring it a terrorist group and arresting many of its leaders. The former president and others are on trial for allegedly inciting violence that led to the deaths of protesters.

If approved, this week's referendum would be followed by elections for a new president and parliament.

Army chief General Abdel Fatteh el Sissi - who ousted Morsi - is widely seen as a presidential favorite.

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