Violence erupts as Egyptians vote on new constitution

A woman holds a child while voting Tuesday on Egypt's constitutional referendum in Hawamdaya.

Story highlights

  • Eleven deaths reported on election day in Egypt, 2 attributed to natural causes
  • Egyptians are voting on a draft constitution that would ban religious parties
  • The constitution would also put more power in the hands of the military
  • Hundreds have died amid political turmoil in Egypt over the past three years
Violence marked the beginning of a two-day referendum as Egyptians went to the polls Tuesday for the second time in 13 months to reshape their country's future.
In all, 11 people died Tuesday in events relating to the referendum, Ahmed El Ansary, head of the emergency unit at the ministry of health, told CNN.
Two died of natural causes, while nine deaths "are suspected to be criminal," he said.
Clashes were reported in several provinces. At least four were killed in Sohag and one in Beni Seouif in clashes between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and security.
Violations reported by rights groups monitoring the vote ranged between campaigning for "yes" votes inside or near polling stations and preventing Christian voters from reaching polling stations in parts of Upper Egypt, which has a history of sectarian strife and is known for the strong presence of Islamist groups.
But Hisham Mukhtar, the executive director of the Higher Education Commission, told state-run Masriya TV, "so far, there haven't been any reports of fraudulent activities and the referendum is being conducted in a very calm and fair atmosphere."
On Monday, Mukhtar told Al-Ahram that the nearly 53 million eligible voters were divided among more than 30,000 committees and would be supervised by more than 13,000 judges.
The violence began even before polls opened at 9 a.m., when a bomb exploded near a Cairo courthouse. No one was hurt, security officials said.
Despite the explosion, Egyptians waited in long lines to cast their ballots.
"This will not scare us," said Mohamed Moharram, a teacher who lives near the court. "In half an hour, I will go to my poll station and cast my ballot."
Marred by violence
Tuesday's deaths were but the latest twist in three years of political upheaval marked by two presidential departures and hundreds of deaths.
Tuesday's referendum -- the first national vote since the ouster of the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsy -- is about changing the constitution to ban religious parties and give more power to the military. If the draft is passed, elections should follow.
A deep political divide is evident between supporters of the interim military government and defenders of Morsy.
Protesters near the Cairo court held aloft a poster of Egypti