Sat, March 19, 2011
World > Asia-Pacific

Egypt starts referendum on constitutional amendments

2011-03-19 08:10:24 GMT2011-03-19 16:10:24(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

A man show his finger afer voting for the referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, capital of Egypt, March 19, 2011. Egyptians started voting on Saturday morning to decide on constitutional amendments aimed at ensuring free and fair parliamentary and presidential polls later this year. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots for the referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, capital of Egypt, March 19, 2011. Egyptians started voting on Saturday morning to decide on constitutional amendments aimed at ensuring free and fair parliamentary and presidential polls later this year. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

Voters wait in line to cast their ballots for the referendum on constitutional amendments in Cairo, capital of Egypt, March 19, 2011. Egyptians started voting on Saturday morning to decide on constitutional amendments aimed at ensuring free and fair parliamentary and presidential polls later this year. (Xinhua/Cai Yang)

CAIRO, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Egyptians started voting on Saturday morning to decide on constitutional amendments aimed at ensuring free and fair parliamentary and presidential polls later this year.

Crowds of people entered polling stations in downtown Cairo as they opened at 8 a.m. (0600 GMT). The voting will end at 7 p.m. ( 1700 GMT) Saturday.

Voters will say yes or no to a package of nine changes to the constitution, which was suspended by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) on Feb. 13.

Some 45 million eligible voters, or about half of the country's population, are urged to participate in the voting with their national IDs, the first of its kind after the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11.

Some 16,000 judges and members of the judiciary are arranged to supervise the process, with 36,000 soldiers and officers deployed near the stations to ensure security with police forces.

A high turnout is expected as the government has pledged to ensure transparency and fairness of the referendum with Egyptians want to use their rights to change the country.

According to the amendments proposed by a committee appointed by the SCAF, the presidential term will be shortened to four years from six years, and there will be a two-term cap on the president who should appoint one or more vice presidents within 60 days after taking office.

The changes also eased the restrictions on the qualifications of presidential candidates and said elections should be carried out under judicial monitoring.

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