Referendum: Egyptians abroad vote

2012-12-12 15:04


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Cairo - Egyptians abroad began voting on Wednesday in a referendum on the new constitution that President Mohamed Mursi fast-tracked through an Islamist-dominated drafting assembly, in a setback for the opposition who had hoped to delay the process.

The official state news agency reported voting had started at Egyptian embassies abroad, the same day as the army scheduled talks between rival factions in Cairo aiming to reunite a country deeply divided by the crisis over the referendum.

Voting on the referendum at home will be spread over two days, 15 December and 22 December.

The liberal, secular opposition had argued that the chaotic protests and counter protests which followed Morsi's assumption of sweeping new powers late last month meant the referendum should be postponed, but large opposition rallies this week did not change the Islamist president's mind on the matter.

State media said the two-day voting plan had been adopted because many of the judges needed to oversee the vote were staying away in protest at the decision to hold the referendum, so voting had to be staggered to move the judges around.

Morsi was anxious to push through the new constitution as it must be in place before national elections can be held. Those are expected early next year.

In response to the growing political crisis surrounding the referendum, Egypt's military chief will host national unity talks later on Wednesday.

Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is also the head of the armed forces, said the talks would not be political in character. "We will sit together as Egyptians," he said.

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled him to the presidency in a June election, were expected to attend, along with the main opposition coalition. The opposition stayed away from an earlier reconciliation meeting called by Morsi last weekend.

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  egypt  |  north africa

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