Egypt's constitution approved in vote, say rival camps

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A constitution drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly was approved by a majority of Egyptians in a referendum, rival camps said on Sunday, after a vote the opposition said drove a wedge through the Arab world's most populous nation.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled President Mohamed Mursi to power in a June election, said 64 percent of voters backed the charter after two rounds of voting that ended with a final ballot on Saturday. It cited an unofficial tally.

An opposition official also told Reuters their unofficial count showed the result was a "yes" vote.

The referendum committee may not declare official results for the two rounds until Monday, after hearing appeals. If the outcome is confirmed, a parliamentary election will follow in about two months.

Mursi's Islamist backers say the constitution is vital for the transition to democracy, nearly two years after the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in an uprising. It will provide stability needed to help a fragile economy, they say.

But the opposition accuses Mursi of pushing through a text that favours Islamists and ignores the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 percent of the population, as well as women. They say it is a recipe for further unrest.

"According to our calculations, the final result of the second round is 71 percent voting 'yes' and the overall result (of the two rounds) is 63.8 percent," a Brotherhood official, who was in an operations room monitoring the vote, told Reuters.

His figures were confirmed by a statement issued shortly afterwards by the group and broadcast on its television channel.

The Brotherhood and its party, as well as members of the opposition, had representatives monitoring polling stations and the vote count across the country.

The opposition said voting in both rounds was marred by abuses and had called for a re-run after the first stage. However, an official said the overall vote favoured the charter.

"They (Islamists) are ruling the country, running the vote and influencing the people, so what else could we expect," the senior official from the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, told Reuters.

The vote was split over two days as many judges had refused to supervise the ballot.

"I'm voting 'no' because Egypt can't be ruled by one faction," said Karim Nahas, 35, a stockbroker, heading to a polling station in Giza, in greater Cairo, in the last round.

At another polling station, some voters said they were more interested in ending Egypt's long period of political instability than in the Islamist aspects of the charter.

"We have to extend our hands to Mursi to help fix the country," said Hisham Kamal, an accountant.

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