Egypt faces new fights as constitution nears approval

David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh / New York Times News Service /

CAIRO — An Islamist-backed constitution appeared headed for approval on Saturday, propelling Egypt’s deeply divided political factions into a new phase in the battle over the country’s future.

As millions went to the polls for the final round of a referendum, all sides predicted that the charter would win approval, marking an important milestone in Egypt’s chaotic two-year transition to democracy.

By late Saturday, results from over 60 percent of the polling places put the “yes” vote at more than 70 percent, according to the Muslim Brotherhood.

But the hastily drafted document leaves unresolved many questions about the character of that democracy, including the Islamists’ commitment to individual freedoms and their opposition’s willingness to accept the results of the political process without recourse to violent street protests.

The charter’s path to the referendum has also taken Egypt to the brink of civil strife, exposing the alienation of the Christian minority, the political opposition’s refusal to negotiate and the Muslim Brotherhood’s willingness to rely on authoritarian tactics.

Neither supporters nor opponents of the charter said they expected an immediate end to the partisan feuding that has torn at the country in the month before the vote.

Morsi’s advisers said that after the ballots were counted in the coming days he would deliver a televised address calling for unity and reconciliation.

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