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Polls open in final round of Egypt referendum

Polling stations opened in Egypt on Saturday in the second and final round of a referendum on a new constitution. It was drafted by an assembly dominated by Islamists, but the opposition says it is polarizing the nation.

Islamists chant slogans supporting President Mohammed Morsi in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. Since the country's political crisis erupted more than three weeks ago, the opposition has kept the pressure on the government of President Mohammed Morsi with mass marches that at times have seen turnouts of hundreds of thousands. Morsi's Islamist supporters have countered with rallies of their own. (Foto:Amr Nabil/AP/dapd)

Ägypten Demonstration Mursi Unterstützer Islamisten

The Saturday vote is taking place in 17 of Egypt's 27 provinces with about 25 million eligible voters. The first phase on December 15 produced a "yes" majority of about 56 percent with a turnout of some 32 percent, according to unofficial results.

After a first round vote last week, which unofficial results showed as 57 percent approval of the constitution, polls opened again at 8 a.m. for the last stage of voting in areas analysts expected would give another "yes" vote.

The vote has been staggered, with about half the 51 million eligible voters covered in each round, because many judges needed to supervise the vote have boycotted the polls to protest the referendum in sympathy with the opposition.

Polls are scheduled to close at 7 p.m. but could be kept open longer as they were last week. The opposition said voting in the first round was littered with abuses. Officials overseeing the poll have said there was no major irregularities.

Saturday's vote comes a day after clashes between supporters and opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. The violence is the latest episode in more than four weeks of turmoil over the president's powers and the constitution, adopted by a panel of Islamists without liberal and Christian participation.

A comfortable "yes" majority would strengthen Morsi and his Islamist backers.

bk/jr (Reuters/AP)

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