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Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The Referendum on the Constitution Begins

See also Syria Live Coverage: "The Only Terrorism is That of Assad"
Friday's Palestine, Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Hamas Shows Its Strength in West Bank

2100 GMT: Egypt. About 500 supporters of prominent Salafist preacher and former Presidential candidate Hazem Abu-Ismail have allegedly attacked the headquarters of the opposition Wafd Party.

Mohamed Tharwat, managing editor of Al-Wafd news website, told the Hayat television channel that attackers surrounded the building, located in Cairo's middle-class Dokki district, and sprayed it with fireworks.

Reporter Omar Said said attackers broke into the building and beat up journalists and Wafd Party members.

1856 GMT: Egypt. The head of the electoral commission, Zaghloul El-Balshi has said that about 50% of the more than 51 million registered voters cast ballots in today’s constitutional referendum.

There are some reports of frustration at long queues to vote, caused in part because of difficulties in finding judges to supervise the ballot.

The opposition National Salvation Front announced that it has received “tens of violation complaints from different governorates".

The most common violation, the Front claimed, was Muslim Brotherhood members inside polling stations trying to persuade citizens to vote Yes.

The opposition also alleged the collection of unstamped ballot sheets at polling stations.

1426 GMT: Egypt. Voting is reportedly steady, and heavy in some places, in the referendum on the Constitution.

The Speaker of the Egyptian legislature, Ahmed Fahmy, stood in the queue for around an hour until he voted at a polling station in Sharqiya. He said, describing the referendum as a “democratic festival”, “We are delighted with this significant participation of Egyptians, both those who will say 'yes' or 'no.'”

Some clashes have been reported at polling stations in several Governorates.

The Egypt Independent is running a live blog covering the voting today.

1420 GMT: Yemen. A military court has sentenced 93 members of the Republican Guard to prison terms of up to seven years for an attack on a military complex in August.

The sentences, which were more lenient than expected, follow increased tensions between factions loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose son commands the Republican Guard, and the Government led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

On Tuesday, Brigadier General Ahmed Saleh refused orders to hand over long-range missiles to the Ministry of Defense.

0835 GMT: Egypt. An image from the BBC's Lyse Doucet:

0655 GMT: Egypt. Egyptians have begun voting in a referendum on the draft Constitution put forward by the Morsi Government.

After months of delays, the proposed Constitution was rushed to completion by the Constituent Assembly early this month, amid tension over President Morsi's claim of expanded powers. Morsi later withdrew the decree for those powers but stood behind the referendum, despite calls by the opposition for postponement.

Most of the opposition, including the new coaliation National Salvation Front, revised their position and are calling for a No vote. However, the referendum will be held over two days --- today and next Saturday --- because of a shortage of judges willing to supervise it, amid Morsi's challenge to the authority of the judiciary.

In Alexandria on Friday, a street fight broke out after Friday Prayers --- in which the preacher told the audience to vote Yes --- between rival factions armed with clubs, knives, and swords. Several cars were set on fire, while the preacher was trapped inside his mosque. 

There were relatively small rallies in Cairo, compared to the protests of recent days, by both sides.

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