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Egypt ends first round of constitutional referendum

Voting has ended in Egypt's referendum on its new constitution, and attacks on opposition party buildings have been reported as officials began counting votes. The vote continues next week in other parts of the country.

The first round of voting on Egypt's constitutional referendum wrapped up late on Saturday after the closing time of polling stations was extended by four hours. Voter turnout was reportedly high.

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Egyptians vote on constitution

The opposition has argued that, if ratified, the constitution would undermine human rights in the country, particularly regarding women and religious minorities.

"Adoption of [a] divisive draft constitution that violates universal values and freedoms is a sure way to institutionalize instability and turmoil," the opposition politician and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on Twitter.

Another round ahead

As the polls closed on Saturday night, the headquarters building of the Wafd opposition party was attacked in Cairo. Offices belonging to a party newspaper, located next to the party headquarters, also sustained damage.

Several thousand police and army personnel were deployed around the country at polling stations to maintain security. On the eve of the election supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi clashed in Alexandria. Protests on Friday in Cairo remained peaceful.

Morsi provoked angry demonstrations when he issued a decree last month expanding his powers and then fast-tracked the draft constitution through an assembly dominated by his Muslim Brotherhood group and its allies. Three weeks of protests followed, leaving eight people dead and hundreds injured.

Results of the referendum will not be known until a second round of voting in other parts of Egypt is complete. That vote is scheduled for December 22.

mz/ch (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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