Egypt rights groups call for re-run of ‘flawed’ poll

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Leading Egyptian rights groups have called for a repeat of the first round of the constitutional referendum, alleging the vote was marred by widespread violations.

Islamists who back the disputed charter yesterday claimed they were in the lead with a majority of “yes” votes, though official results have not been announced.

Representatives of the seven groups charged that there was insufficient supervision by judges in Saturday’s vote in ten of Egypt’s 27 provinces and independent monitors were prevented from witnessing counts.

The representatives told a news conference last night that they had reports of individuals falsely identifying themselves as judges, of women prevented from voting and that members of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood were allowed inside polling stations. They also complained that some polling centres closed earlier than scheduled and that Christians were denied entry to polling stations.

Mohamed El Baradei, Egypt’s best known reform leader, was as frustrated by how the referendum was run as the rights groups.

“Is a referendum held under insufficient judicial supervision, clearly tenuous security and the violence and violations we are witnessing the road to stability or playing with the country’s destiny? The Nobel peace laureate and former UN chief wrote on his Twitter account.

The vote capped a near two-year struggle over Egypt’s identity. The latest crisis over the charter has evolved into a fight over whether Egypt should move toward a religious state under Morsi’s Brotherhood and their ultraconservative Salafi allies, or one that retains secular traditions and an Islamic character.