Egypt Islamists, police clash ahead of vote results
At least one person was killed in clashes between Egyptian police and Islamists Friday, as the country awaited results of a constitutional referendum billed as an endorsement of president Mohamed Morsi's overthrow.
Clashes between Morsi's Islamist supporters and tear gas- firing police were reported in several cities, security officials said.
One person was killed in fighting in Fayoum, a city southwest of Cairo, police said. His identity was not immediately clear.
Police fired tear gas at pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, security officials and state media said, in what has become a weekly ritual in a massive crackdown on Islamist protests.
The interim authorities trumpeted the two-day poll as a chance for voters to show their support for the army's July overthrow of Egypt's first freely elected president after mass street protests.
Flagship state-owned daily Al-Ahram hailed a 98 percent vote in support of the new charter drawn up the interim authorities to replace the Islamist-inspired one adopted under Morsi in 2012.
Morsi's Islamist supporters, who boycotted the vote, described it as a farce and predicted it would culminate in the sort of massive electoral fraud that characterised the three-decade rule of Hosni Mubarak, ended by the Arab Spring uprising of 2011.
The government hoped a large turnout among Egypt's 53 million registered voters in the referendum would bolster its democratic credentials and further marginalise the Islamists.
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man who toppled Morsi, was closely monitoring voter participation as an indication of support for a presidential bid later this year, military officials said.
Preliminary tallies reported by state news agency MENA suggested turnout had reached 39 percent in most provinces in Tuesday and Wednesday's polling, sharply up on 33 percent registered in the Morsi-era referendum just over a year ago.
The office of interim president Adly Mansour hailed a "high turnout" in the vote on a new charter it says gives new protections for free speech and women's rights, but it gave no figures.
The government said the vote showed support for Morsi's overthrow.
"This was also a referendum on June 30," said government spokesman Hany Salah, referring to the day when millions of protesters took to the streets demanding that the president resign.
The run-up to the vote was marred by arrests of activists who campaigned against the constitution.
"There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government's roadmap or the proposed constitution to dissent," said monitoring group Democracy International, which observed the referendum.
The group said its monitors witnessed security forces and campaigning material inside polling stations, but there was "no evidence that such problems substantially affected the outcome of this referendum."
But the Islamist opposition scorned the figures put out by state media and called for mass demonstrations on January 25 -- the third anniversary of Mubarak's overthrow.
"Let the putschists deceive themselves and hold fools' celebrations," it said.
"The whole world laughs at them as they bring back six decades' corruption and fraud, and the usual 99.99% results in all elections, in their favour -- of course."
The US administration is closely watching the results of Egypt's referendum, but has not yet decided whether to unfreeze some $1.5 billion (1.1 billion euros) in aid, the State Department said Thursday.
Washington suspended part of its aid -- the bulk of it military -- in October, angered that there had been little indication of a return to democracy after Morsi's overthrow.
"There are a range of factors we look to," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in Washington, adding that merely holding the referendum this week was not enough.
The vote has put the Islamists on the back foot, and gives the Egyptian government even less incentive to negotiate with Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The government has designated the party, which won every previous vote since Mubarak's overthrow, a "terrorist organisation," making even expressions of verbal support punishable by heavy prison sentences.
Morsi himself has been in custody since his ouster and is currently standing trial in the first of three separate cases against him.