Claims of 'irregularities' as Egypt votes on constitution
Egyptian rights groups have voiced concerns about alleged irregularities at polling stations as the electorate voted in a referendum that is expected to approve a new constitution and lay the foundations for the country's transition to democracy.
Authorities extended voting by four hours in the second and decisive round of the plebiscite on the Islamist-drafted constitution that the opposition has criticised as divisive and likely to cause more unrest.
Just hours before polls closed, vice president Mahmoud Mekky announced his resignation, saying he wanted to quit last month but stayed on to help president Mohamed Morsi tackle a crisis that blew up when the Islamist leader assumed wide powers.
Mr Mekky, a prominent judge who said he was uncomfortable in politics, disclosed earlier he had not been informed of Mr Morsi's power grab. However, the timing of Mr Mekky's move appeared linked to the fact there is no vice-presidential post under the draft constitution.
In a resignation letter, Mr Mekky said that although he had held on in the post he had "realised for some time that the nature of political work did not suit my professional background as a judge".
Islamist supporters of Mr Morsi say the charter is vital to move towards democracy, nearly two years after an Arab Spring revolt overthrew authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak. It will help restore stability needed to fix a struggling economy, they say.
But the opposition says the document is divisive and has accused Mr Morsi of pushing through a text that favours his Islamist allies while ignoring the rights of Christians, who make up about 10 per cent of the population, as well as women.
"I'm voting 'no' because Egypt can't be ruled by one faction," said Karim Nahas (35), a stockbroker, heading to a polling station in Giza, a province included in this round of voting which covers parts of greater Cairo.
At another polling station, some voters said they were more interested in ending Egypt's long period of political instability than in the Islamist aspects of the charter.
"We have to extend our hands to Mursi to help fix the country," said Hisham Kamal, an accountant.
Queues formed at some polling stations around the country and voting was extended by four hours to 11pm. (9pm Irish time).
Unofficial tallies are likely to emerge within hours of the close, but the referendum committee may not declare an official result for the two rounds until Monday, after hearing appeals.