Egyptians were voting on Saturday in the second and final phase of a referendum on an Islamist-backed constitution, but there was little indication that the result of the vote will end the political crisis in which the country is mired.
The vote comes a day after clashes between supporters and opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. It was the latest outbreak of street violence in more than four weeks of turmoil, with the country divided first over the president’s powers then over the draft constitution.
The clashes — in which opponents of Islamists set fire to cars and dozens of people were hurt — illustrated how the new constitution, regardless of whether it is adopted or not, is unlikely to ease the conflict over the country’s future.
Saturday’s vote is taking place in 17 of Egypt’s 27 provinces with about 25 million eligible voters. The first phase on Dec. 15 produced a “yes” majority of about 56 percent with a turnout of some 32 percent, according to unofficial results.
“I came early to make sure my ‘no’ is among the first of millions today,” oil company manager Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz said as he waited in line outside a polling station in the Dokki district, part of Giza province but also in the greater Cairo area. “I am here to say ‘no’ to Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.
Another Giza voter, accountant and mother of three Sahar Mohamed Zakaria, had a different take on Saturday’s vote.
“I’m voting ‘yes’ for stability,” she announced.
In part, Egypt’s split has been over who will shape the country’s path nearly two years after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.
An opposition made up of liberals, leftists, secular Egyptians and a swath of the public angered over Morsi’s 5-month-old rule fear that Islamists are creating a new Mubarak-style autocracy. They accuse the Brotherhood of monopolizing the levers of power and point to the draft charter, which Islamists on the Constituent Assembly rammed through despite a boycott by liberal and secular members. They are calling on supporters to vote “no.”
Morsi’s allies say the opposition is trying to use the streets to overturn their victories at the ballot box over the past two years. They also accuse the opposition of carrying out a conspiracy by former members of Mubarak’s regime to regain power.