Egypt polls close on new constitution referendum


An Egyptian woman shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote at a polling station during the second day of voting on a new constitution on Wednesday in the northern port city of Alexandria.



Polls are now closed in Egypt, and voting results on a new referendum are expected within 72 hours.

Voting on a new constitution was the first since the army overthrew former president Mohammed Morsi last July, Al Jazeera reported.

According to Al Jazeera's straw polls done outside voting stations, Egyptians voted en masse to replace Morsi's constitution.

Egyptians resumed voting on Wednesday, undeterred by sporadic violence that marred the first day of the two-day referendum on a new constitution.

After a strong turnout on Tuesday, fewer people were seen voting on Wednesday. Various reports said many polling stations in the capital Cairo were almost empty. 

If the new constitution is approved, it paves the way to parliamentary and presidential elections.

Even so, a high voter turnout is seen as crucial to providing legitimacy to the military-installed authorities — and countering their Islamic opponents. 

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The elections are being closely watched, no more so than by US lawmakers, who are expected to pass a bill on Friday that would allow the White House to thaw $1.5 billion in aid to Cairo.

A “yes” vote by Congress is contingent on independent observers certifying that Egypt "has held a constitutional referendum and is taking steps to support a democratic transition,” US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf was quoted as saying.

Washington suspended the annual hand-out in October after Egypt's security forces led a deadly crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

"Our hope is that it will be a process that is transparent and accountable and one that can give confidence to people that they are going down the road that has been promised. But we don't know yet," US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Kuwait, where he attended a Syria donors conference.

Security forces were deployed across the country to ensure the highest possible voter turnout.

Still, 11 people were killed in clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents and police in several provinces on Tuesday, while a handmade bomb exploded outside a courthouse in Cairo, though no one was injured.