Polling stations open in final Egypt constitution vote

CAIRO Sat Dec 22, 2012 1:22am EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Polling stations opened in Egypt on Saturday in the second and final round of a referendum on a new constitution that was drafted by an assembly dominated by Islamists and which the opposition says is polarizing the nation.

After a first round vote last week which unofficial results showed as giving 57 percent approval for the constitution, polls opened again at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) 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. (1700 GMT) 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 said there were no major irregularities.

"I'm voting 'no' because Egypt can't be ruled by one faction," said Karim Nahas, 35, a stock market broker, heading to a polling station in Giza, a province included in this round of voting which covers parts of greater Cairo.

"Had the constituent assembly been representative of all Egyptians in the first place, we wouldn't have been in this situation," he said, after deadly violence marred the build-up to the referendum.

Liberals, Christians and others quit the drafting assembly, which was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist allies of President Mohamed Mursi, saying their voices were not being heard.

Television footage showed some early queues at polling stations in areas of the country covered by this stage of the poll. If the constitution is approved, a parliamentary election will follow in about two month's time.

(Reporting by Shaimaa Fayed; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Todd Eastham)

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