Those who support the charter said they hoped Saturday’s vote would usher in a semblance of stability, ending a month-long political crisis that has seen bitter ideological divisions between Islamists and their opponents devolve into violent street battles.
Also Saturday, Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekki, a career judge whose post will be eliminated by the new charter, announced his resignation, prompting speculation among opposition members that the move had been triggered by a break with the country’s elected president, Mohamed Morsi.
“I have realized for a while that politics does not suit my natural profession as a judge,” Mekki said in a statement late in the day. He said that he had submitted his resignation Nov. 7 but that the request had been “delayed” while he fulfilled various vice-presidential duties.
Although the new constitution was expected to win approval, clashes between its Islamist supporters and opposition members on the eve of Saturday’s vote highlighted the lingering uncertainty here about the country’s political future.
Differences over the constitution have pitted Morsi, who is backed by the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, against a broad coalition of liberals, leftists and Christians, who accuse the Islamists of seeking to entrench their own power and ideology amid a tumultuous transition from authoritarian rule. The Islamists say the new constitution and the Islamist-dominated assembly that drafted it reflect Egypt’s democratically expressed will.
Preliminary results from the first round of voting on Dec. 15 showed 56 percent in favor of the constitution. And as Egypt’s remaining provinces — some with strong Islamist constituencies — voted Saturday, many observers said they expected an even wider majority by day’s end. Official results are expected Monday.
If the charter passes, the government is required to hold parliamentary elections within 60 days. The upper house of parliament, known as the Shura Council — another body composed mostly of Islamists — would assume legislative control of the country in the meantime.
Some of Morsi’s opponents voiced a feeling of frustrated resignation as they went to the polls Saturday, casting their ballots against what they called a “Muslim Brotherhood constitution” even as they predicted that the referendum would pass.
“We voted no, but we know that the results will be a ‘yes,’ ” said Mervat Nassim Ibrahim, a Christian homemaker, who voted in the religiously mixed working-class district of Shubra al-Kheima, north of Cairo. “It’s just like the presidency. We didn’t vote for Morsi, but he won anyway.” she said