Islamists Claim Victory on Egypt Constitution Vote

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Islamists appear to have won a narrow victory in the first round of voting on Egypt's constitution. Egyptian rights groups are calling for a re-vote, charging there were widespread violations.

The opposition umbrella group, the National Salvation Front, condemned the irregularities and violations, including the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood members at the polls. They called for a massive rally against the constitution.

"We call on our great Egyptian people, in all their sectors, to go down on Tuesday, Dec. 18, to the streets to defend their free will, prevent its forgery, and bring down the void draft constitution," the group's spokesman Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr said.

Millions of Egyptians cast their vote in the referendum on the draft constitution. It would empower Islamists to enforce the most widespread and strictest implementation of Islamic, or Sharia law, that modern Egypt has ever seen.

"I cannot accept a constitution with very limited, very limited actually, rights for minorities, rights for women, rights for even children," one voter, Mohamed Ewais, said.

"It's not suitable for Egypt, actually. We are taking about a country that has been in place for over 210 years as a modern state," he said.

Rights groups said violations included women being prevented from voting because they were not wearing Islamic veils, individuals falsely identifying themselves as judges, and Christians being denied entry to polling stations.

As polls closed, hundreds of Islamists attacked the offices of one of Egypt's oldest liberal parties.

"The president, if he is president of all Egyptians, holds the responsibility of what has happened now and I ask the attorney general to submit the criminals who attacked us to justice," Wafd Party leader El-Sayed Badawi said.

Israelis are watching the Egyptian vote with concern since an Islamist victory could threaten the 33-year peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

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