Rivals Clash Ahead of Egypt Constitution Vote

Posted December 14th, 2012 at 10:00 am (UTC-5)
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Clashes have broken out in the Egyptian city of Alexandria between supporters and opponents of the country's new constitution, one day before the highly contentious referendum on the document.

Witnesses say fighting between stone-throwing protesters began Friday near a mosque in Alexandria, the country's second largest city. Several cars were set on fire. There was no immediate word on injuries.

In Cairo and other cities, thousands of flag-waving activists turned out for rival rallies. Such gatherings have been generally peaceful.

The proposed constitution has the support of President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups.

However, members of liberal, secular and Christian opposition fear it will erode civil liberties because it boosts the role of Islamic law and does not mention women's rights.

A largely Islamic committee approved the document last month after liberal and Christian members walked out, complaining they were being ignored.

Last week, clashes between supporters and opponents left eight people dead and hundreds injured.

Polls open on Saturday in Cairo, Alexandria and a group of other provinces. The rest of the country will vote on December 22.

Egyptians living overseas began casting their ballots earlier this week.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Working Group has urged Egyptian officials to review the document to ensure that in conforms to international laws on equality and women's rights.

In a Friday statement, independent expert Kamala Chandrakirana said “key opportunities so far has been missed.” The group says the final draft of the constitution does not include adequate provisions to protect against gender discrimination.