CAIRO - Egyptians voted narrowly in favor of a constitution shaped by
Islamists but opposed by other groups who fear it will deepen divisions,
officials in rival camps said on Sunday after the first round of a
Next week's second round is likely to give
another "yes" vote as it includes districts seen as more sympathetic
towards Islamists, analysts say, meaning the constitution would be
But a close win, if confirmed, would give Islamist
President Mohamed Morsi only limited cause for celebration as it would
show a wide rift in a country where he needs to build consensus on tough
measures to fix a fragile economy.
The Muslim Brotherhood's
party, which propelled Morsi to office in a June election, said 56.5
percent backed the text. Official results are not expected till after
the next round.
Morsi and his backers say the constitution is
vital to move Egypt's democratic transition forward. Opponents say the
basic law is too Islamist and tramples on minority rights, including
those of Christians who make up 10 percent of the population.
build-up to Saturday's vote was marred by deadly protests.
Demonstrations erupted when Morsi awarded himself extra powers on
November 22 and then fast-tracked the constitution through an assembly
dominated by his Islamist allies.
However, the vote passed off
calmly with long queues in Cairo and several other places, though
unofficial tallies indicated turnout was around a third of the 26
million people eligible to vote this time. The vote was staggered
because many judges needed to oversee polling staged a boycott in
The opposition had said the vote should not have been
held given violent protests in the Arab world's most populous nation,
which is watched closely from abroad to see how Islamists, long viewed
warily in the West, handle themselves in power.
"It's wrong to
have a vote or referendum with the country in the state it is - blood
and killings, and no security," said Emad Sobhy, a voter who lives in
Cairo. "Holding a referendum with the country as it is cannot give you a
Increasingly divided nation
polls closed, Islamists attacked the offices of the newspaper of the
liberal Wafd party, part of the opposition National Salvation Front
coalition that pushed for a "no" vote.
"The referendum was 56.5
percent for the 'yes' vote," a senior official in the Brotherhood's
Freedom and Justice Party operations room set up to monitor voting told
The Brotherhood and its party had representatives at
polling stations across the 10 areas, including Cairo, in this round.
The official, who asked not to be identified, said the tally was based
on counts from more than 99 percent of polling stations.
nation is increasingly divided and the pillars of state are swaying,"
opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on Twitter. "Poverty and
illiteracy are fertile grounds for trading with religion. The level of
awareness is rising fast."
One opposition official also told Reuters the vote appeared to have gone in favor of Islamists who backed the constitution.
opposition initially said its exit polls indicated the "no" camp would
win comfortably, but officials changed tack during the night. One
opposition official in the early hours of Sunday said it would be "very
close". There was no formal statement from the opposition National
"Even if this result is correct, that does not
mean that this constitution can pass, because it means more than 40
percent of the people didn't agree with it," said Issam Amin, speaking
on a Cairo street and echoing the opposition line that the constitution
needed consensus backing not a simple majority.
A narrow loss
could still hearten leftists, socialists, Christians and more
liberal-minded Muslims who make up the disparate opposition camp, which
has been beaten in two elections since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last
They were drawn together to oppose what they saw as
Morsi's power grab and his constitution push. The National Salvation
Front includes prominent figures such as ElBaradei, former Arab League
chief Amr Moussa and firebrand leftist Hamdeen Sabahy.
constitution is approved, a parliamentary election will follow early
next year. Opposition leaders say the Front could help unite the
opposition for that poll after their divided ranks have split the vote
in previous elections.