Islamists claim victory on constitution, amid allegations of abuses

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The Independent Online

Egyptians voted in favour of a constitution shaped by Islamists, but opposed by secularists and others, officials in rival camps said after the first round of a two-stage referendum. The document threatens to divide the Arab world's biggest nation.

Next week's second round is likely to give another Yes vote as it includes districts seen as more sympathetic towards Islamists, analysts say, meaning the constitution would be approved. But the narrow win so far gives the Islamist President Mohamed Morsi only limited grounds for celebration by demonstrating the wide rifts in a country where he needs to build a consensus to enact tough economic reforms.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which propelled Mr Morsi to office in June, said 56.5 per cent of voters backed the text. Official results are not expected until after the next round.

While an opposition official conceded the Yes camp appeared to have won the first round, the opposition National Salvation Front said voting abuses meant a rerun was needed – although it did not explicitly challenge the Brotherhood's vote tally.

The build-up to Saturday's vote was marred by deadly protests. Demonstrations erupted when Mr Morsi awarded himself extra powers on 22 November and then fast-tracked the constitution through an assembly dominated by Islamists.