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Monday
Mar212011

Egyptians Vote on Proposed Constitutional Amendments

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- Given Egypt's political climate over the past several decades, Saturday was a day of joy as millions showed up at more than 50,000 polling stations to vote for constitutional amendments.

It was the first free elections in Egypt in more than 50 years, spurred by pro-democracy demonstrations less than two months ago that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

Still, it's unclear whether voters will approve the amendments to pave the way for parliamentary elections, essentially a government set up by the people rather than by whomever is running the country at the moment.

When Mubarak stepped down, the military stepped in to assume governing but has agreed to abide by the will of the electorate.

If approved, the new Egyptian president will be limited to two, four-year terms.  The amendments will also restrict some of the president's powers, including the ability to call for a state of emergency, which is the equivalent of martial law.

Those opposed to the amendments include some of the reformers who demanded Mubarak's ouster.  They are mostly Egypt's secular and liberal political figures, who complained the amendments won't give them sufficient time to form organized parties ahead of parliamentary election.

However, the once-outlawed -- and better organized --  Muslim Brotherhood, which the West fears will advance a radical Islamic agenda, supports the amendments.

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