Update: Woman shot dead in Gharbiya following voting scuffles

Update: Woman shot dead in Gharbiya following voting scuffles

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Thu, 13/12/2012 - 02:20

Voting has started on Saturday morning for the referendum on the constitution draft in 10 governorates. The voting is set to take place in two phases, today and on 22 December. The voting today is taking place in Cairo, Alexandria, Daqahlia, Gharbiya, Sharqiya, Assiut, Sohag, Aswan, North Sinai and South Sinai. Around 51 million voters are registered to cast their ballots in both phases. The voting is taking place in 351 general polling stations and 13,099 substations nationwide. Different statements from the Supreme Judicial Elections Commission say that there are between 7,000 and 10,000 judges supervising the polling. The statements follow various courts’ general assemblies deciding to boycott the poll to object President Mohamed Morsy’s infringement on the judiciary when he issued a declaration last month immunizing his decrees from judicial oversight, as well as the Constituent Assembly drafting the constitution. While the declaration was later rescinded, the constitutional draft was salvaged from a possible court dissolution of the assembly as it was submitted before Morsy backed off. The voting is taking place in the midst of rising polarization between Islamist forces and their opponents who say that the draft solely reflects the vision of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi movement. This is the fifth election Egyptians have seen since the 25 January revolution, the first being the referendum on the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration, then the People's Assembly elections in November and December 2011, the Shura Council elections in January and February 2012 and the presidential election in May and June 2012. Egypt Independent provides live updates throughout the day.

2:00 am: One woman was killed in the Delta city of Gharbiya after being shot by live ammunition following the announcement of the preliminary results of the polls. Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that Taqiya Abdel Hakeem was shot dead after she was wrongly targeted. Witnesses said clashes had broken out earlier between the son of the killed woman and three other voters who traded accusations of attempting to direct voters. Later, when the initial results geared toward the "yes" votes, a person tried to attack the deceased woman's son after accusing him of influencing voters. But the shot reached the mother instead.

11:00 pm:  Polling stations officially close, but some voters are waiting to vote inside polling stations.

10:00 pm: Ahmed Omar, spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, has said 19 people were injured on Saturday during various incidents during the referendum.

He told Al-Masry Al-Youm that one of the injured is in a critical condition after being shot with live ammunition.

Daqahlia witnessed the biggest share of injuries, where 10 people were injured, including the citizen shot with live ammunition.

He added that four people were injured in Cairo and were transferred to hospitals.

Other injuries were reported in Sharqiya, where two people were hurt, and in Gharbiya. One person was injured in Alexandria.

8:30 pm: The Freedom and Justice Party's operations room has reported several violations, such as "no" vote campaign signs on public transportation buses and in front of certain polling stations, and is accusing the Popular Current of putting up the signs.

The party also reported on other violations, such as the delayed opening of certain polling stations and changes in voters' numbers on voter lists.
Finally, the party complained about what it alleges are "certain groups' diffused rumors and false information among voters about the constitution draft, making false claims about farmers' land confiscation, cancelation of English language learning and lowering wages."

The party's operation room praised the high turnout and general smooth operation throughout the day.

8:00 pm: Al-Sayed al-Badawy, the head of the Wafd Party cast his ballot in his hometown of Tanta, in Gharbiya Governorate. As he stood in line, he spoke of the need for a widescale national dialogue to resolve the current divisions and the deteriorating political and social situation.

He added that the Morsy was voted into his position and will only leave it through the ballot box.

Badawy said that his party was offered positions in the Shura Council, which the president had said will look into filling its empty seats through appointments.

Badawy had met Morsy last week, while most opposition forces insisted not to meet him.

7:30 pm: Voting on the referendum will be extended until 11 pm, the official MENA news agency reported.

Zaghloul al-Balshy, secretary general of the High Elections Commission, denied earlier reports that voting would be extended for another day, saying that this requires a presidential decree.

The commission had already extended voting from 7 pm to 9 pm due to a high voter turnout in the 10 governorates of the first round. Overcrowding was reported at several polling stations, especially after sunset.

7:15 pm: In Sayeda Zeinab, a judge has shut down polling stations after voters attempted the close polling stations in objection to the supervising judge refusal to show his ID as well as reports of unstamped ballots. Angry voters blocked the doors and argued with the officials supervising the referendum. Of those present, many interviewed by Egypt Independent say they plan on voting "no." Twelve voters plan on filing reports against the judge. Earlier in the day, Samir Abul Maty, head of the HEC, had urged judges to place their identification cards in a place where voters could easily see them, in order to avoid suspicion over the supervision of the referendum. 

7:00 pm: In the Upper Egyptian city of Sohag, the family of late journalist al-Husseini Abodeif, who was fatally injured during the presidential palace clashes, voted against the draft constitution, which they said is “illegitimate and lacks credibility.”

Abodeif was filming protests for the privately-owned newspaper Al-Fagr when he was hit by birdshot after President Mohamed Morsy's supporters attacked an opposition sit-in outside the presidential palace in Cairo on 5 December. His body arrived in his hometown of Tama, Sohag late last week, and Abodeif’s parents and siblings said they hold Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood responsible for his death. 

Abodeif’s father, Mohamed Abodeif, said he voted because his son had always urged the family to participate in elections. “'No' to the invalid, illegitimate constitution,” he says. Salem, Abodeif’s brother, said the whole family voted "no" because the constitution lacks the consensus promised by the president — not because his brother was killed at the hands of Muslim Brotherhood militias.  “The Muslim Brotherhood lies, and is now claiming that my brother was standing among the president’s supporters. This brings to mind the expression: ‘You kill the victim then march in his funeral,’” he adds.

Fierce clashes broke out between supporters and opponents of Morsy around the presidential palace on 5 December, and several testimonies corroborate eyewitness accounts that groups of Brotherhood members and their supporters detained, tortured and interrogated protesters in makeshift holding cells. For its part, the Brotherhood denies these claims and says thugs attacked protesters.

Elderly voters wait outside the Tusson Mixed Elementary School polling station in Shubra.

6:30 pm: Ahmed Amer, Health Ministry spokesperson, says seven have been injured since the start of the first round of voting on the referendum in 10 governorates.

In a statement, Amer said one citizen was injured in Cairo and transferred to Shubra General Hospital, while in Alexandria one injured voter was taken to Abu Qir Hospital. Sharqiya Governorate also reported one injury, while two each were reported in Gharbiya and Daqahlia Govrnorates.

6:15 pm: In the late voting hours, scattered incidents of violence and violation were witnessed in different polling stations. 

In Daqahlia’s Meet Ghamr district, an army officer fired several shots in the air to disperse the crowd after one voter attacked a soldier at the gate while trying to force his way in. A group of voters had gathered at the gate, angry at the slow-moving queues, trying to force their way in while chanting against security forces. When the gates were closed, one voter attempted to force the door open and was arrested. When shots were fired in the air, the supervising judge threatened to cancel voting at the station.  A number of older citizens intervened to calm the tense situation, and voting resumed.  

Maher Abdel-Moneim Ahmed tells Al-Masry Al-Youm he was surprised to find someone had already signed next to his name in the voters’ list. He says the official supervising the polling station refused to file a report and told Ahmed to file one at the police station. Ahmed headed to the police station and filed a report on the incident.

At a polling station at Kafr Yacoub village in Gharbiya, five were injured in clashes between members of the Freedom and Justice Party and Wafd Party members. The army and police intervened and dispersed the crowd. The clashes were reportedly caused by Muslim Brotherhood members inside the polling station urging voters to choose "yes."

In Tanta, Gharbiya, voting has halted for an hour at a polling station, after the supervising judge had a health problem and another was called in.

Constitutional referendum

6:00 pm: As evening rolled in, several reports point to a higher voter turnout as polling stations grow more crowded.

At one polling station in Salam City, the supervising judge had halted voting for 10 minutes due to overcrowding, namely the eldery.  

In the working class districts of Dhaher, Bab al-Shaariya and Darb al-Ahmar, voters complained of overcrowding and the lack of organization at polling stations.

Judge Ismail Hamdy, member of the general polling station at Bab al-Shaariya, says he gave officials supervising stations the authority to extend voting past 7 pm if people are already queued up outside.

5:30 pm: As the sun set in Sharqiya, polling stations saw a higher turnout than earlier in the day.

At one women’s polling station in Zagazig, there was a majority of "no" voters. Samia Kamel, 41, hadn’t planned on voting in the referendum until she heard a commentator on television explaining that not voting would help boost the percentage of "yes" votes, especially with Islamist forces are campaigning to pass the constitution. “I will vote 'no' because I am not convinced by the hasty [passage] of the draft constitution,” she says.

Standing close by were Marwa Samy and Mayar Mahmoud, two friends who both planned to vote against the constitution. Samy says that despite the country’s need for a constitution at the present time, people should not just accept anything that is drafted. Both agreed that the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood thus far is one of the main reasons they chose to vote "no."

“How can we trust a constitution written by a specific group of people without consensus, particularly since this group’s politics are worrying?” asks Samy.

But Ibrahim Refaat, an accounting professor at Zagazig University, was displeased with their conversation. “The youth do not know enough about the country’s history and don’t read much — we must do everything for God, even this constitution.”

5:00 pm: Cairo’s mostly-Christian district of Shubra saw a high turnout and mixed voting patterns at different polling stations.  

At a polling station in the area, one of several "yes" voters Egypt Independent spoke to, Donia Ismail, 39, says she made her choice so Egypt can "move forward."

Other "yes" voters also mentioned stability. Omnia Ibrahim, a 49-year-old doctor, says she read the constitution and "didn't find anything that suggests it is pro-Muslim Brotherhood or in their favor." Ibrahim criticizes the "subjective discussion" by opponents of the draft.

On the other hand, "no" voters had problems with several articles. Mohamed Hassan, a 34-year-old engineer, says he is opposed to linking pay with productivity and the provisions governing education, health and the president's powers.

Others express strong anti-Brotherhood sentiments. Jan Erian, 63, describes the Freedom and Justice Party, the group’s political arm, as "worse than the NDP," ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s now-dissolved party, and “dictators.” He sees the constitution as a document “made for one group,” echoing the concerns of others who say the Constituent Assembly that drafted the constitution was dominated by Islamist forces. "Everyone has to be represented. Why else did we have a revolution?" Erian says.

Samir Bakheet agrees, saying that “Mubarak was more tolerable.”

Fekry Faheem, a 53-year-old clothing factory manager, cites about 15 provisions that are “unclear or worrying.”

Asmaa Salah, 30, voted "no" because the constitution "divides Muslims and Christians."

At another polling station, Iman Mohamed, a 44-year-old housewife, has voted "no" due to some provisions she doesn't understand in the draft, which she described as vague.

On the other hand, Hassanein Abdel Fatah, 35, voted "yes" because he says the country needs stability, though admits that he has not read the draft.

In a heated discussion outside a polling station between voters, one man accuses the opposition of “objecting for the sake of objecting.” Another responds that that draft was drawn up by one party.

4:30 pm: In Sharqiya, the polarization witnessed during the presidential elections was also visible during the referendum voting.

In the village of Qraqera in Minya al-Qamh district, one polling station was shut down for more than an hour. Voters said the committee supervising the referendum was out for lunch and afternoon prayer. Citizens there complained about the presence of Freedom and Justice Party members inside the polling station. Tareq Farouq, 48, says, “They shut down the station under the pretext of prayer." Farouq, who voted "no," stresses that no one in the village has the full voters’ list but the Muslim Brotherhood. He claims members were inside polling stations directing illiterate voters and urging them to vote “yes.” During the presidential election, the polling station was divided into four substations, Farouq says, but for the referendum however, the substations were merged into one station.

Mohamed Sayed, who also voted “no,” complains that one polling station was not enough for the 5,000 voters is the village. Sayed said it took him more than an hour to cast his ballot, while others left the long queues without voting. He does not suspect, however, that there was a deliberate intention to stall the voting process in the village, where the majority voted against Morsy in the presidential election runoff despite the president’s roots in Sharqiya. Sayed, who attended the presidential election vote count and had a copy of the results, says 2,700 voted for Ahmed Shafiq in the runoff and 1,250 chose Morsy.

Ayman Matouq voted “yes,” stressing the integrity of the voting process and accusing remnants of the dissolved National Democratic Party of stirring rumors to create chaos. Army officers responsible for securing the referendum did not allow journalists or civil society activists inside polling stations unless they had permission from the Higher Elections Commission.

4:00 pm: High turnout has been reported in several working class districts in Cairo in the later hours of the day.

The working class district of Cairo’s Manshiyet Nasser witnessed a higher turnout at polling stations in the afternoon. Al-Masry Al-Youm reported violations by supporters of the constitution, who helped citizens find their polling station while urging them to vote "yes." Arguments were reported in women’s polling stations in Manshiyet Nasser after women wearing niqab tried to hang posters for "yes" votes.

In the Old Cairo district, a high turnout of voters headed to polling stations amid a calm atmosphere, except in one station in Malek al-Saleh, where a man urged his wife to sway the opinion of female voters. Judge Ashraf Saleh, head of one of the polling stations in the area, criticized the way the ballot paper was designed, adding that it does not take illiterate voters into account by not clearly distinguishing between the brown and red circles for "yes" and "no" votes. “It would have been better to draw a check mark or an "x" to make it easier for those who are illiterate to vote, without needing help from anyone else who may influence their choice,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Duweiqa, a low turnout was reported at most stations. 

3:30 pm: Clashes have broken out at three polling stations in Gharbiya Govenorate between supporters and opponents of the constitution, but no arrests or injuries have been reported.

A security source said a violent confrontation took place in front of a polling station in the Meet Hashem village of the Samanoud District.

There were also clashes between Muslim Brotherhood members and members of the Popular Current at a polling station in Mahalla, and another polling station in Qotour city was the scene of an altercation between members of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and members of the former ruling National Democratic Party.

3:00 pm: In SharqiyaShura Council speaker Ahmed Fahmy stood in the queue for around an hour until he voted at a polling station. Sharqiya, which is President Mohamed Morsy's hometown, has been home to violent between his supporters and their opponents last week.  Fahmy tells Egypt Independent, “We are delighted with this significant participation of Egyptians, both those who will say 'yes' or 'no.'” He described the referendum as a “democratic festival,” adding that it is “the product of the blessed [25] January revolution, which heightened the awareness of the Egyptian people and urged them to participate in crafting their future.” 

Meanwhile, the Delta governorate was also home to many "no"-voters. Ibrahim Badr, a member of the Egyptian Movement for Change, held a banner that read: “The Brotherhood are liars ... Glory to the martyrs.” He questioned the legitimacy of the snap referendum on the constitution. Bader voted "no" and explained his banner by saying that the Muslim Brotherhood did not keep their promises to form a Constituent Assembly with more consensus. He also accused the group of lying to political forces and failing to live up to any of their promises. “If the result is yes, our reaction will be based on thepercentage. If it is a large [margin], we will accept it, but if it is close to the rate of those rejecting, we will not recognize a constitution that does not enjoy popular consensus and will seek to topple it.”

Referendum in central Cairo

2:30 pm: Samir Abul Maty, head of the High Elections Commission, urged judges to place their identification cards in a place where voters could easily see them, in order to avoid suspicion over the supervision of the referendum. Tension ran high at a polling station in New Cairo after voters insisted on seeing the IDs of judges at the polling station. However, Hesham Raouf, deputy justice minister, said that voters should not ask judges for their identity card, as this represents "disrespect for him as a public employee as he performs his duties," the state-run Al-Ahram reported.

At a polling station in New Cairo, Councilor Rania Galal, the head of the general polling station, said that by 12 pm 600 out of a total of 5900 eligible citizens had voted. Galal said citizens are highly skeptical of the identities of the judges supervising the voting stations, due to rumors that were flying before the referendum. Councilor Kamel Atef, overseeing another polling station, said 500 people had cast their ballots, adding that the judges who agreed to supervise the referendum did so out of a sense of obligation to “protect the country.”

Meanwhile, Zaghloul al-Balshy, secretary general of the commission, called on the operations rooms of the National Salvation Front and other groups to report any violations observed by their monitors. He added that polling stations opened on time with the exception of a few due to certain circumstances out of their control, such as traffic problems, and delays averaged half an hour to one hour. As of 1 pm, the commission had not received reports of violations pertaining to campaigning outside of polling stations. One polling station was closed after an attempt to storm it, according to Raouf. 

2:00 pm:  In Cairo's Dar al-Salam district, the situation was calm and the lines were long. Many of those standing in line at one of the polling stations were middle-aged or older, engaging in heated debates.

One man walking by yelled that the “Brotherhood have already ruined things,” to which those around him responded, “Keep it to yourself,” and “Everyone came here today with their mind already made up.”

Of the voters saying "no" to the constitution interviewed by Egypt Independent, many cited the vagueness of the articles and their reliance on "the law." They also said it does little to limit the president’s powers, and was drawn up by a mainly Islamist Constituent Assembly, leaving much of the Egyptian population, including Copts and women, unrepresented.

Some of the "no" votes were also a rejection of the president and the rushed process by which the draft constitution was written, as well as the snap referendum.

Optometrist Hatem Abdallah, 52, says the past two months proved to him that "[Morsy] is not interested in being a president for [all] Egyptians ... why should I give him more power if so far he's only been using it against me?"

At the Worker's University in Nasr City, Ibrahim Helmy, 67, says, "Call me feloul, call me an infidel, I don't care. It's unfathomable to think of Egypt going down the path that [Morsy] wants to take it down."

He adds, "Who's really in charge of Egypt. Is it Morsy? Is it the supreme guide, or [Khairat] Shater? Nobody tells us anything, we just get decrees and laws and referendums."

In the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut, many of the "no" voters said they reject the regime as a whole and not just the constitution, in light of the recent political and social polarization.

A high percentage of Christians in the city are voting "no" because of the domination of Islamist forces over the political process.

"The country is falling apart. I am not satisfied with the whole regime," says a doctor who preferred not to mention his name, after casting a "no" vote.

Back in Cairo's Manial district, accountant Kamal Mahmoud, 34, voted no because he is unconvinced on the constitution, criticizing the draft for leaving numerous matters to be decided by the law.

Iman Hassan, 58, an Al-Azhar English teacher, also voted "no" because she is unimpressed with the provisions on women's rights and its "lack of concern with tourism,” a vital revenue earner for the economy.

Moheb Tareq, a 20-year-old student, described the constitution as the Muslim Brotherhood’s, with no representation for other segments of Egyptian society

In Abdeen, Akram Naguib opposed the constitution because it does not limit the powers of the president, but he fears the majority may vote "yes." The draft constitution is “loose and can be interpreted in many ways," he adds.

1:45 pm: Outside of Cairo, Egypt Independent witnessed a high turnout in Mansoura, Daqahlia Governorate, at most polling stations, where more men than women could be spotted. Some verbal altercations took place between voters when lines grew longer and messier. In one polling station, only five employees were managing the process, slowing down voting, while outside, protesters became angry and clashed with military personnel securing the polling station, which led to its temporary closure.

In the Mit Fares village outside of Mansoura, a teacher was spotted directing people to vote "yes" outside the only polling station there. “I am voting ‘no’ because Egypt deserves better,” said Salwa Gamal, a student at Mansoura University.

1:30 pm: Deputy Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater went to cast his ballot in a polling station in Nasr City, with a clique of his followers in tow. The monitoring collective Shayfeencom reported that Shater did not stand in line. Upon his arrival, opposition voters chanted slogans against him and the Brotherhood, such as “Down with the rule of the supreme guide,” Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

More than one source, including the National Salvation Front's operations room and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party operations room, reported that Copts were prevented from entering certain polling stations in Nasr City.

1:00 pm: Despite being the site of violent clashes yesterday, a high turnout was witnessed by Egypt Independent in the Ramla district of Alexandria. Clashes had erupted Friday between Morsy supporters and opponents, with the latter besieging Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque after alleging that Morsy supporters who attacked them were hiding in there.

Mohamed Hussein, 47, a Salafi, says he will vote "yes" in order to pass this constitution and establish an Islamic state; although he believes that Sharia will not be implemented thoroughly through Articles 2 and 219, he thinks the current document could be a milestone for the future.

Nasser Mohamed, 34, who doesn’t describe himself as an Islamist, will also vote "yes" to protest Morsy opponents besieging the mosque yesterday.

Meanwhile, presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said in an exclusive statement to CNN Arabic that President Mohamed Morsy voted in the first phase of the draft constitution referendum in his constituency at a Heliopolis School. Ali denied the claim of "some opponents" that he voted outside his district, in violation of the law.

Ali explained that Morsy changed his place of residence on his national ID card after he was elected president so that Heliopolis would be his constituency, instead of Zagazig, where he cast his ballot in the presidential election and the runoff.

Morsy voted in the same constituency where former President Hosni Mubarak voted, but in another school.

Morsy cast his referendum ballot at the Heliopolis Middle School for Boys, which is located near Merryland Park, close to Heliopolis Middle School for Girls where Mubarak and his family used to vote.

Voting in Ain Shams on the first day of the constitutional referendum

12:45 pm: Many of those interviewed by Egypt Independent who are planning to vote "yes" on the constitution say they are doing so for the sake of stability.

In the working class district of Dar al-Salam, 47-year-old Mohamed Basheer, the owner of a satellite television appliance store, says, "There are people saying 'no' to this constitution because they are confused, and others because they're benefiting from the way the country is now, on the verge of ruin. The constitution is a step toward stability, and some people are fighting that." He adds that some opposition figures are "desperate now because they feel like they have a chance to topple the Brotherhood regime. This is politics. There's always people who want to be in power." Basheer feels Morsy "hasn't had a fair chance."

Galal Fahmy, 61, is casting a "yes" vote because he wants "the country to freshen up." He complains that since the revolution, business in his electronic parts shop has been dead. "I'm voting 'yes' so that the country moves forward," Fahmy says, adding that the "no" vote campaigners have been misleading people with untrue accounts about the constitution.

In Abdeen, Ahmed al-Shazly is also voting "yes" because he seeks stability. "I read the constitution, and so did my daughter in high school," he says, adding that there wasn't much contention. He concludes that the articles causing disagreement can be discussed later in Parliament.

12:30 pm: In the first signs of clear campaigning, a number of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were witnessed in the vicinity of polling stations in the middle class areas of Hadayek al-Kobba, Wayly and Al-Zawya al-Hamra, distributing flyers to promote voting "yes" on the constitution, in addition to stickers labeled "Know your Constitution," amid limited turnout by voters, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

The Brotherhood provided minibuses to take voters to their polling stations for free. One of the voters tells Al-Masry Al-Youm that "members of the group transport voters to polling stations whether they support or reject the constitution, but they hand them flyers [supporting] it."

Meanwhile, the National Salvation Front's operation room reported that a judge was directing voters to vote "yes" on their ballots in a polling station in Hadayek al-Kobba. The front was formed following mass protests against Morsy over the last few weeks and includes several opposition figures.

Morsy had voted in Heliopolis earlier in the morning, but there are some concerns about his ballot's legality because he hails from Sharqiya Governorate, where mass protests against him took place last week. His son, Osama Morsy, denied rumors that the president changed his address so as not to vote in Sharqiya and avoid his opposition there. Osama said that Morsy's work address is in Heliopolis, which is where the Ettehadiya Palace is located, and using a work address is an option when voters register their information.

Morsy's family voted today in Sharqiya, including his wife, Nagla Ali Mahmoud, and daughter Shaimaa, as well as Osama, who waited in a long queue for their turn. High security was seen in the area surrounding Morsy’s house in Zagazig. The operations room of the Army and security forces was set up in a stadium facing the house. Security sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the security measures were not taken to only secure Morsy’s house, but the whole city.

12:00 pm: Strong female participation was observed by Egypt Independent in different polling stations in Cairo. In a polling station in Abdeen, close to downtown, Fatemah Moussalem had just cast a "no" vote on her ballot, saying that she read some of the articles of the constitution draft and felt that those who wrote them didn't really represent the Egyptian people at large. "It only represents them," she says. For her, the draft is meant to ensure the the Muslim Brotherhood's grip on power, from which President Mohamed Morsy hails. "I am hopeful, and the people who overthrew [former President Hosni] Mubarak can also say no to the constitution," she adds.

In the same polling station, Faten came with her husband with the intention to also vote "no," "because the constitution is unfair," she says. While she wanted to boycott the voting, her husband convinced her to come for fear that lack of participation would encourage vote rigging.

In the middle-class district of Manial, a long line of women queued ahead of a polling station. Samar, a veiled woman in her 30s, emerged from the polling station declaring that she had "carried out her patriotic duty." She had voted "no," she says, because the constitution "doesn't represent us." She was particularly concerned about the draft's provision on healthcare.

Manial Girls Prep School in Cairo covered in graffiti urging votes against the draft constitution

11:30 am: Sami Anan, the former Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, cast his ballot for the first time in his life, the website of privately-owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reported. The paper quoted a source close to the former general as saying that Anan voted in the polling station of Fatma Helal School in the upscale neighborhood of Tagamoa al-Khamis. As a member of the military, Anan could not vote in previous elections. However, President Mohamed Morsy made some critical reshuffles in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in August, sending both Anan and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi to retirement, and appointing the younger Sidqy Sobhy and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, respectively, in their places.

11:00 am: There have been delays in polling stations opening in Cairo and outside, mainly due to judges arriving late or not showing up. Cairo Governor Osama Kamal tells Al-Masry Al-Youm that about 10 polling stations in Cairo did not open on time because judges arrived late. According to him, Cairo is divided into four voting areas, three of which are already functioning properly, but the fourth is delayed and is due to operate shortly. He adds that if the judges continue not to show up, the Supreme Judicial Elections Commission would be informed to find an alternative.

In the Bassatein area, south of Cairo, polling stations were also late to open. A security source tells Al-Masry Al-Youm that the problem is that the stations are hard to reach by public transportation, especially for employees manning the polling process. Similar delays were also experienced in Tanta and Zefta in Gharbiya, and Sohag. According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, 160 polling stations in Sohag opened late.

Most Assiut polling stations opened at 8 am on Saturday except some in Badary, Dayrout, Qousseya and Sadfa due to a shortage of employees supervising the process and women who were supposed to check identity of voters wearing face veils.

10:30 am: In a first sign of violence, a man fired live ammunition in the air in front of a polling station in the city of Mahalla, Gharbiya, Al-Masry Al-Youm reports. Hatem Osman, the security head of Gharbiya, told Al-Masry Al-Youm, that the man was arrested and that it is an individual case. Gharbiya has a little less than 3 million voters. Mahalla, which is the traditional site of labor unrest, has seen mass protests against the Brotherhood last week, after which the city declared itself an autonomous zone from the rule of Morsy, as a symbolic gesture. Most polling stations in and around the city have already witnessed a high voter turnout.

10:00 am: Coptic Pope Tawadros II cast his ballot in a polling station in the Abbasseya area alongside other Christian preachers, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. As he voted, the pope called on all Egyptians to participate in the elections whatever their position is towards the constitution. He added that there is enough freedom for everyone to express their opinions and to perform their national duty. In the recent rift between Islamist forces and their opponents over the constitution, some Islamist leaders accused Christians of being behind the polarization. Official records say Christians make up some 10 percent of the population.

9:30 am: In the city of Assiut, long queues have been spotted by Egypt Independent in different polling stations. A low-ranking military officer is placed inside every station. In one polling station, many of the voters are middle class professionals, leaning toward casting a "no" vote. "I say a thousand 'no's to the chaos we're living in and to the constitution," says government employee Moqbel Azmy as he exits the station. Many expressed concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood will mobilize people in the countryside of the governorate to cast a "yes" vote, since they want to see this constitution implemented. In another polling station, a high turnout of Christians is observed, as noted by the names called out during voting. Many at the station say that the long queues are caused by the fact that the polling station used to have three substations, but was turned into one due to the shortage in supervising judges.

Referendum in central Cairo

9:00 am: Morsy voted in a polling station in Heliopolis, east of Cairo, state television reports. The school was handed over to members of security and intelligence ahead of the president's arrival and a red carpet was put at its entrance, according to the Turkish Anadolu news agency. After voting, the president made sure the process is moving forward smoothly. Surrounding voters chanted and applauded for him.

Morsy called for the referendum on 1 December, the day he received the constitution draft from the Constituent Assembly, and set the 15 December date as stipulated by the March 2011 Constitutional Declaration.

8:30 am: Long queues of voters are witnessed by Egypt Independent in different polling stations in Heliopolis. Army and police personnel are guarding the polling stations and organizing voters' queues. In one polling station, with five substations, only one judge is overseeing the process. The Supreme Judicial Elections Commission gave different statements on the number of judges officially participating in the supervision of the polling, following the decision of many judges and courts' general assemblies to boycott the polling. In the queue, one female voter who wants to stay anonymous says that she is there to nullify her vote. "I am lost and stopped being able to understand anything. Everyone around me is saying the constitution is bad, but then what will happen if it fails?" she says, explaining that she also nullified her ballot during the presidential run-off between President Mohamed Morsy and Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmad Shafiq, because neither of them represented her. "I had to convince her to come at least and nullify her ballot," interjects her angry, veiled mother. "You never know. They could falsify her ballot. Those in power can do anything," she adds, asserting that her ballot will be marked with "a 'no' vote, once, twice and thrice to make sure that I am against this constitution."