Opposition activists and “no”-voters said Saturday that approval of the charter would inevitably spur further unrest.
“The opposition is not going to calm down after this,” said Faten Mubarak, a housewife who voted no in the poor, densely crowded neighborhood of Imbaba, in Cairo’s sister city, Giza. “They will go out to the streets again, and it might lead to a civil war,” she said. “We hope not, but people are nervous.”
Opposition protesters clashed with Islamists in the coastal city of Alexandria on Friday night, hurling stones and setting fire to two buses as police fired tear gas to separate the two sides in the hours before the polls opened.
Opposition activists accused the Muslim Brotherhood of serious electoral violations in last week’s round of voting, and many cited fresh claims Saturday, including voter intimidation and delayed poll openings in several districts. In some areas, posters urging Egyptians to vote yes adorned the outer walls of schools that were serving as polling stations, and arguments broke out between voters and monitors.
In Shubra al-Kheima, where the Brotherhood is strong, witnesses said they spotted religious clerics rallying voters from street corners.But the polls remained largely peaceful, and officials said any violations had been minor.
The Islamists — long the most formidable opposition to former president Hosni Mubarak — have scored victories, albeit with shrinking margins, in every election since a popular uprising ended Mubarak’s authoritarian rule nearly two years ago.
Liberals and secularists have accused the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist organizations of exploiting religion to gain votes. Many also pointed to last Saturday’s slim majority — 56 percent — as evidence of a country divided.
“When 45 percent of people say ‘no,’ it is a strong indication,” liberal opposition leader and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei said in a speech Thursday. “Some don’t read or write, but they are conscious that they should not be tricked,” he said.
The Islamists, in turn, have painted their poorly organized opponents as sore losers, infidels and beneficiaries of the former government who are seeking to undermine democratic results through mass protest.
“They’re not going to accept it. They will go to the streets and say that the referendum was rigged and it was full of flaws because they do not understand democracy,” said Umm Osama, a mathematics teacher wearing a black face veil. “People need to understand that democracy is with the ballot box,” she said.
Some Islamists cited a low majority at the polls as a sign of legitimacy. “The referendum will pass, and not like the old regime’s elections did,” said Mustafa Abdel Menam Hassan, a rickshaw driver, referring to rigged Mubarak-era votes that gave the autocratic leader outrageous landslide victories.
“It will pass with a respectable percentage, maybe 59 percent,” Hassan predicted. “That’s democracy. Obama won with 1 percent.”
Sharaf al-Hourani contributed to this report.