Islamists vs. secularists in Egypt ahead of vote on constitution

Islamists in support of President Morsi's constitution clashed with opponents in Alexandria the day before the second leg of voting occurs.


Police fired tear gas as thousands of Islamists were met by a smaller group of protesters near a large mosque.

The Islamists back President Mohammed Morsi and his draft constitution. Opponents say the document has been rushed and does not protect minorities.

Alexandria voted in the first leg of a referendum that has split the nation.

The capital, Cairo, has also voted. Seventeen of the 27 provinces will cast ballots on Saturday.

'Redeem Islam'

Islamists in favour of the draft had called for a large rally outside the Qaed Ibrahim mosque in the centre of Alexandria.

They chanted "God is Great" and "With blood and soul, we redeem Islam".

A smaller group of opponents chanted anti-constitution slogans and the two sides threw stones at each other.

Police formed lines to keep the groups apart and fired tear gas. Six people were hurt, Agence France-Presse quoted the health ministry as saying.

Last week an ultraconservative cleric was trapped in a mosque in Alexandria for 12 hours as his supporters battled opponents outside.

Some 250,000 security personnel have been deployed nationwide to try to keep order during the referendum.

Turnout for the first round of voting was reported to be low - just above 30%. Unofficial counts suggested some 56% of those who cast ballots voted "yes" to the draft.

The opposition has complained of a number of cases of fraud.

There indeed may be fraud, but the fact is, the majority of Egyptians want Sharia law and the secularists who don't are in the minority. Besides their support for sharia, the Egyptian people apparently want an end to the crisis atmosphere in the country and believe the new constitution will begin to settle Egypt down so that the economy - near collapse without foreign nations propping it up over the last few months - can begin to heal.

The margin of victory for Morsi should increase tomorrow as most of the vote will take place in the rural areas of Egypt where literacy is down and the Muslim Brotherhood is very popular.

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