CAIRO — Egypt's opposition on Sunday charged that fraud was committed during a referendum on the nation's Islamist-backed constitution, which preliminary results indicated had been approved by voters. The dispute augured more ill will and public confrontation between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and their opponents.
The constitution, which went before voters Saturday in a second and final round of balloting, was approved with 64 percent of the vote, according to an initial count, the state news agency reported.
Leaders of the National Salvation Front, a coalition of nationalist, left-wing and moderate politicians, accused Islamists of fraud and urged the government to not put the constitution into effect until after an investigation.
"We documented a set of irregularities that are clearly evidence of systemic violations," said Amr Hamzawy, an NSF leader and political science professor.
The NSF said it had compiled a list of 1,500 violations in the referendum's first round on Dec. 15 and said a similar number of abuses occurred Saturday. Charges include voters being turned away and judges who served as observers turning up late at voting centers where the constitution was expected to fail.
NSF leaders said that the constitution amounted to President Mohammed Morsi's first step in a plan to build an Islamist dictatorship. "We see that our people are on the verge of a series of laws that will ravage general freedoms and will humiliate the poor in this nation," said Hamdeen Sabahi, one of the NSF's leaders and a former presidential candidate.
Sabahi said the non-Islamist parties looked to elections as the place to defeat Morsi's ambitions, but added that they have not decided whether to compete in parliamentary elections early next year.
Islamist political figures sounded conciliatory notes Sunday but said nothing about addressing the allegations of fraud. Morsi's office, sensitive to the accusations being railed against him, defended the draft constitution, calling it "a substantial improvement on human rights advocacy.