Egyptians Vote On Amendments To Constitution

Mar 19, 2011
Originally published on March 20, 2011 1:41 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports voter turnout is unusually high in some districts.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Voters pack the streets around the polling station in the upper-class neighborhood in Zamalek here in Cairo. Accountant Abeid Mossad is one of many here who say they are voting for the first time.

ABEID MOSSAD: It's worth it, it's worth it. Once every 30 years to do this, it's worth it. All my generation have never seen this before.

SARHADDI NELSON: Fellow first-time voter Mona Mustafa, who's been waiting for more than an hour, says she will stay as long as it takes to cast her ballot.

MONA MUSTAFA: You don't feel like it's rigged; you feel like your voice counts and that when you vote your yes or no vote, it will really be counted, hopefully. Inshallah, as they say.

SARHADDI NELSON: Some analysts here question why the measures were never officially publicized. Gianluca Parolin is an assistant law professor at American University in Cairo.

GIANLUCA PAROLIN: The outcome of the referendum will also depend politically, I think, on the informed decision of the voter. Now, that has been a major problem because the final text of the amendments was never truly released.

SARHADDI NELSON: With Egypt's history of rigged elections, many here wonder whether today's referendum will be free and fair.

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SARHADDI NELSON: Independent monitors, like Amr Shalanky, are being sent to the polls to prevent fraud. He complains the referendum was poorly planned.

AMR SHALANKY: Most of the NGOs have been taken by surprise that this is actually happening. I have personal friends who are judges who don't know until today which electoral circuits they're supposed to be supervising.

SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.