15 Jan 2014

Fears of violence as Egypt referendum enters final day

Security concerns prevail on the final day of Egypt’s referendum on a new constitution, after at least 11 people were killed in clashes with police.

Egypt referendum: voter holds up ink stained finger aftering oting at polling station in Cairo (picture: Reuters)

Above: a man shows his ink-stained finger after voting at a polling station in Cairo.

Polling stations across Cairo are being heavily guarded following sporadic clashes on Tuesday between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of ex-president Mohamed Morsi, and security forces.

The constitutional referendum is a key milestone in the military-backed path to a new president and parliament.

It is also serving as a popularity contest for the military and its leader, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, and could be seen as paving the way for him to run for the presidency later in the year.

Egypt referendum: supporters of General Sisi

The referendum, six months after Mr Morsi was ousted in a military coup, is also a divisive issue – pitting the Muslim Brotherhood once again against the military.

Branded a terrorist organisation by the government in December, the Muslim Brotherhood is boycotting the vote.

And on Tuesday clashes across Egypt resulted in injury and death.

Muslim Brotherhood supporters staged protests in at least four cities, and police arrested 65 Brotherhood supporters who were trying to obstruct voting, security officials said.

Warning: the amateur footage below contains images that some viewers may find distressing.

The bloodiest clashes were in Sohag, south of Cairo, and in Giza on the outskirts of the capital, the health ministry said in an emailed statement.

Local officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said four Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed in Sohag and more than 20 wounded, in addition to three policemen.

However, Egypt’s state news agency reported, citing Egypt’s interior ministry, that Muslim Brotherhood supporters had killed four people and wounded nine more, including a police officer, when they opened fire on people trying to reach polling stations.

Rubble outside a courthouse in Cairo following a bomb explosion (picture: Reuters)

Four people were killed in clashes in Giza and a man was also killed in Beni Suef, south of Cairo. Additionally, two small bombs exploded in Cairo (pictured above) and in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla, but nobody was injured.

The referendum has been tainted by criticisms that Egypt’s hard-won freedom from the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 has been eroded.

Campaigning for a “no” vote has risked arrest by the police and those who voice opposition to the constitution’s charter have been branded “traitors”.