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Egyptians Vote On Amendments To Constitution

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports voter turnout is unusually high in some districts.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Voters pack the streets around the polling station in the upper-class neighborhood in Zamalek here in Cairo. Accountant Abeid Mossad is one of many here who say they are voting for the first time.

ABEID MOSSAD: It's worth it, it's worth it. Once every 30 years to do this, it's worth it. All my generation have never seen this before.

SARHADDI NELSON: Fellow first-time voter Mona Mustafa, who's been waiting for more than an hour, says she will stay as long as it takes to cast her ballot.

MONA MUSTAFA: You don't feel like it's rigged; you feel like your voice counts and that when you vote your yes or no vote, it will really be counted, hopefully. Inshallah, as they say.

SARHADDI NELSON: Some analysts here question why the measures were never officially publicized. Gianluca Parolin is an assistant law professor at American University in Cairo.

GIANLUCA PAROLIN: The outcome of the referendum will also depend politically, I think, on the informed decision of the voter. Now, that has been a major problem because the final text of the amendments was never truly released.

SARHADDI NELSON: With Egypt's history of rigged elections, many here wonder whether today's referendum will be free and fair.

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE TALKING)

SARHADDI NELSON: Independent monitors, like Amr Shalanky, are being sent to the polls to prevent fraud. He complains the referendum was poorly planned.

AMR SHALANKY: Most of the NGOs have been taken by surprise that this is actually happening. I have personal friends who are judges who don't know until today which electoral circuits they're supposed to be supervising.

SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.