* Islamists' tally gave charter 64 percent approval
* Opponents say ballot littered with irregularities
* Some question legitimacy after only one-third turn out
* Judge says final result unlikely on Monday
By Tamim Elyan
CAIRO, Dec 24 Egyptian judges were on Monday
investigating complaints of voting irregularities before
declaring the result of a referendum set to show that a
controversial new constitution has been approved.
Opponents of the constitution, drawn up mostly by Islamists
and fast-tracked to a vote by President Mohamed Mursi, have
demanded a full probe into what they say were a litany of
A tally by the Muslim Brotherhood, which lifted Mursi into
elected office, indicated a 64 percent "yes" vote, although only
a third of the 51 million eligible Egyptians took part. An
opposition count was similar, but they said the ballot was
skewed by abuses in both rounds.
The constitution was intended to draw a line under the era
of Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat ousted almost two years ago, and
provide the basis for a new, stable, civilian-led democracy.
But the opposition National Salvation Front has said it
deepens a rift between the liberals and Islamists who combined
to overthrow Mubarak, and will extend the turmoil that has taken
a heavy toll on society and economy.
If the "yes" vote is confirmed, a parliamentary election
will follow in about two months, setting the stage for Islamists
and their opponents, united and rejuvenated by the political
crisis, to renew their battle.
"The committee is currently compiling results from the first
and second phase and votes from Egyptians abroad, and is
investigating complaints," Judge Mahmoud Abu Shousha, a member
of the committee, told Reuters.
He said no time had been set for an announcement of the
final outcome of but it was unlikely to be on Monday.
The relatively low turnout prompted some independent
newspapers to question how much support the charter really had.
"The referendum battle has ended, and the war over the
constitution's legitimacy has begun," the newspaper Al-Shorouk
wrote in a headline, while a headline in Al-Masry Al-Youm read:
"Constitution of the minority."
But the newspaper of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and
Justice Party carried a big tick on its front page, with the
headline: "The people have commanded: Yes to the constitution."
The party head, Saad al-Katatni, wrote on Facebook that the
group's members were "extending our hands to all political
parties and all national forces", adding: "We will all start a
But the opposition, made up of liberals, socialists, more
moderate Muslims and the Christians who account for one in 10
Egyptians, said they would continue to challenge the charter
through protests and other democratic means.
"We do not consider this constitution legitimate," liberal
politician Amr Hamzawy said on Sunday, arguing that it violated
"We will continue to attempt to bring down the constitution
peacefully and democratically."
Opponents say the charter favours Islamists and tramples on
the rights of women and minorities, notably the large Coptic
The run-up to the referendum was marred by protests,
originally sparked when Mursi awarded himself broad powers on
Nov. 22. At least eight people were killed when rivals clashed
in protests outside Mursi's official palace in Cairo, and
violence flared in Alexandria on the eve of both voting days.
By forcing the pace on the constitution, he may have
squandered the opportunity to build consensus for the austerity
measures needed to rein in a crippling budget deficit.
The political crisis has already prompted a delay in a
meeting of the International Monetary Fund's board to sign off
on a $4.8 billion loan seen as critical to restoring investor
confidence. Egypt says the board will meet in January.