Egyptian opposition alleges vote fraud in constitution referendum

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CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s opposition called Sunday for an investigation into allegations of vote fraud in the referendum on a deeply divisive Islamist-backed constitution after the Muslim Brotherhood, the main group backing the charter, claimed it passed with a 64 percent “yes” vote.

Official results have not been released yet and are expected on Monday. If the unofficial numbers are confirmed, it will be a victory for Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who is from the Brotherhood.

But for many Egyptians, especially the tens of millions who live in extreme poverty, the results are unlikely to bring a hoped-for end to the turmoil that has roiled their country for nearly two years since the uprising that ousted authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.

The opposition allegations look likely to prolong the struggle that has exploded in deadly street violence at times over the past month, ensuring that stability will remain elusive.

“The referendum is not the end game. It is only a battle in this long struggle for the future of Egypt,” said the National Salvation Front, the main opposition group. “We will not allow a change to the identity of Egypt or the return of the age of tyranny.”

The opposition claims the new constitution seeks to enshrine Islamic rule in Egypt and accuses the Islamists of trying to monopolize power.

Critics say it does not sufficiently protect the rights of women and minority groups and empowers Muslim clerics by giving them a say over legislation. Some articles also were seen as tailored to get rid of Islamists’ enemies and undermine the freedom of labor unions.

The opposition front said it had filed complaints to the country’s top prosecutor and the election commission asking for an investigation.

“The results of the referendum are for sure because of the rigging, violations and mismanagement that characterized it,” the opposition group said.

However, the Brotherhood insisted violations were limited and should not affect the referendum’s integrity.

The Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political arm, said it hoped the passage of the constitution would be a “historic opportunity” to heal Egypt’s divisions and launch a dialogue to restore stability and build state institutions.

If the violations are considered serious enough, there could be new votes in some areas that would alter the results slightly.

One major concern in the aftermath of the constitutional turmoil is Egypt’s deteriorating economy, which has been battered by the two years of unrest and taken an added hit from renewed violence recently.

The referendum was conducted in two stages, with the first vote on Dec. 15 and the second on Saturday. The Muslim Brotherhood and some media outlets have accurately tallied the outcome of past elections by compiling numbers released by electoral officials at thousands of individual polling stations shortly after voting closes.

Turnout for the vote was 32 percent of Egypt’s more than 51 million eligible voters, according to the Muslim Brotherhood. That was significantly lower than other elections since the uprising ended in February 2011. The opposition has pointed to the low turnout as well as allegations of violations in the voting to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the referendum.

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