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                                        Volume. 11900

Egypt votes on constitution as violence highlights divide
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c_330_235_16777215_0___images_stories_edim_01_Egypt99(12).jpgEgyptians queued to vote on a new constitution Tuesday amid high security, in a referendum likely to launch a presidential bid by the army chief who overthrew Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
 
An Islamist coalition led by the former president's Muslim Brotherhood had called for a boycott and protests during the two days of polling, AFP reported. 
 
Brotherhood supporters staged small protests in at least four cities, a reminder of the deep divisions that overshadow Egypt's political landscape. The government has escalated its crackdown on the Brotherhood in recent weeks, declaring it a terrorist organization on December 25.
 
A small bomb went off near in a court complex in Cairo just before voting was due to begin, but no casualties were reported, Reuters reported. 
 
Militants have stepped up attacks against security forces since Morsi's ouster.
 
While the government has linked the attacks to the Brotherhood, the group has repeatedly said it is a non-violent movement committed to peaceful resistance to the state.
 
But the severe security clamp-down - hundreds of Islamists have been killed and thousands arrested - has taken the steam out of its demonstrations while fuelling anger among young Islamists. Mursi and many other top Brotherhood leaders have been arrested and are on trial.
 
The interior ministry has pledged to confront attempts to disrupt voting.
 
Defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who overthrew Morsi in July, visited a polling station at a north Cairo school after voting began to survey the security preparations.
 
"Work hard. We need the referendum to be completely secured," he told soldiers guarding the school.
 
The police and army deployed hundreds of thousands of personnel to guard polling stations amid fears that a spate of militant attacks and protests would keep voters at home.
 
While it is uncertain how many Egyptians will vote amid concern over violence, the constitution appears certain to pass.
 
The referendum will mark the third time Egyptians have voted on constitutional arrangements since the uprising against Mubarak, a former air force chief. Overall, it is the sixth election or referendum since Mubarak's downfall.
 
The constitution will replace one signed into law by Mursi a little more than a year ago after it was approved in a referendum.

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