A controversial referendum in Egypt over constitutional reform has failed to galvanise the public, according to early exit polls. However, President Hosni Mubarak is likely to get the ‘Yes’ vote he claims will promote democracy. The amendments to the country’s constitution were only agreed by parliament last week, meaning many Egyptians had little time to make sense of the text.
The proposed changes give police wider powers to combat terrorism, ban political parties that have a religious basis and give the President the power to dissolve Parliament as he sees fit. Opposition parties have called for a boycott of the referendum. They believe voting is rigged and say a ‘Yes’ vote could lead to a police state. By lunchtime, four hours after polls opened, an independent electoral watchdog had recorded turn-out as low as just one percent in some areas.