Egyptians vote on disputed charter

With their nation's future at stake, Egyptians lined up Saturday to vote on a draft Constitution after weeks of turmoil that have left them deeply divided between Islamist supporters of the charter and those who fear it will usher in religious rule.

Highlighting the tension in the run-up to the vote, nearly 120,000 army troops were deployed on Saturday to protect polling stations. Clashes between President Mohamed Morsi's supporters and opponents over the past three weeks have left at least 10 people dead and about 1,000 wounded.

Morsi, whose narrow win in June made him Egypt's first freely elected president, cast his ballot at a school in the upscale Heliopolis district.

Monitors from opposition parties and rights groups have so far a wide range of irregularities in Saturday's vote, but no systematic fraud. The violations reported by monitors included polling centers without judges to oversee the process, civil employees illegally replacing the judges, ballot papers not officially stamped.

The shortage of judges was reflected in the chaos at some polling stations, which led the election commission to extend voting by two hours until 9 pm.

Egypt has 51 million eligible voters, half of whom were to cast their ballots Saturday and the rest on December 22. The voting was held in 10 provinces, including Cairo and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.

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