Mekki quits on last day of Egypt vote

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EGYPT’S vice-president Mahmoud Mekki has resigned, according to a state television station.

Mekki’s resignation was announced with more than five hours to go of voting in the second and final phase of a referendum on a disputed, Islamist-backed constitution.

Mekki, a career judge, had said he intended to quit once the charter is adopted. The new constitution eliminates the post of vice president.

However, a statement by Mekki read on TV hinted that his hurried departure could be linked to the policies of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. “I have realised a while ago that the nature of politics don’t suit my professional genesis as a judge,” he wrote.

For some supporters of the proposed constitution, a “yes” vote would be a chance to restore normality after nearly two years of tumultuous transitional politics following Egypt’s 2011 revolution, or to make society and laws more Islamic.

Opponents saw their “no” vote as a way to preserve the country’s secular traditions and prevent Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group getting a lock on power.

As he waited outside to vote in Giza, Cairo’s twin city on the Nile, oil company manager Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz said: “I am here to say ‘no’ to Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.”

Another Giza voter, accountant Sahar Mohamed Zakaria said: “I’m voting ‘yes’ for stability.”

Yesterday’s vote was taking place in 17 of Egypt’s 27 provinces with about 25 million eligible voters. The first phase on 15 December produced a “yes” majority of about 56 per cent with a turnout of 32 per cent.

Preliminary results for the second round were expected late last night or early today. The charter was expected to pass, but a low turnout may undermine its legitimacy.

As was the case in the previous week’s vote, opposition and rights activists reported numerous irregularities: polling stations opening late, Islamists outside stations trying to influence voters to say “yes,” and monitors denied access.

However, the result is unlikely to spell an end to the divisions the charter’s passage has opened in Egypt’s worst turmoil since the fall of Mubarak two years ago.