Egyptian women flash the ‘V for victory’ sign as they wait outside a polling station to vote on the first day of voting on a new constitution, in the Abassyia neighbourhood of Cairo, yesterday.
CAIRO: Egyptians queued to vote amid tight security yesterday in a referendum on a new constitution likely to launch a presidential bid by the army chief who overthrew Islamist president Mohammed Mursi.
Polling at most stations went smoothly, but eight people were killed in clashes outside Cairo between Mursi supporters and police and anti-Mursi groups, security officials said.
The violence highlighted the government’s precarious grip on the most populous Arab nation, still reeling from Mursi’s ouster and a crackdown on his supporters.
An Islamist coalition led by the former president’s Muslim Brotherhood had urged protests and a boycott of the two-day vote, which ends today.
A small bomb exploded outside a Cairo court shortly before polls opened, without causing any casualties, as hundreds of thousands of soldiers and police deployed to guard polling stations.
Three people were killed in the town of Kerdasa, south of Cairo, and five died in central and southern Egypt when protesters clashed with police and civilian opponents.
Before the voting ended, at least 140 people, including some Brotherhood members, had been arrested for disrupting the polling in some areas, security officials said.
Defence minister Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, the general who overthrew Mursi, visited a polling station at a Cairo school to inspect security preparations yesterday.
“Work hard. We need the referendum to be completely secured,” he told soldiers guarding the school.
The government hopes a large turnout in favour of the constitution will bolster its disputed authority, while Sisi will monitor it for an “indicator” of his popularity, an official close to the general said.
Interim president Adly Mansour called for a big turnout.
“The people must prove to dark terrorism that they fear nothing,” he said after casting his vote.
“The voting is not only for the constitution, but also for the road map, so the country can have an elected president and a parliament.”
Mansour’s government has pledged the referendum will be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.
It is unclear how many Egyptians will turn out to vote, but the constitution appears certain to pass.
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