A staff member of the Egyptian embassy (seated) checks the papers of Egyptian men placing their votes in a referendum on the country's new constitution, at the Egyptian embassy in Amman January 9, 2014. (REUTERS/Majed Jaber)
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Egyptians vote this week for the first time since Mohamed Mursi's downfall in a constitutional referendum that will likely give a final push to a presidential bid by the man who deposed him, army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.Approval of the rewritten constitution appears a foregone conclusion: Mursi's now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood is urging a boycott rather than a 'no' vote, while many Egyptians who backed his overthrow are expected to vote 'yes' in a show of support for the army-backed order that has replaced Islamist rule. The referendum is a key element of a transition plan the government unveiled in July with the stated aim of restoring democracy, while simultaneously launching a fierce crackdown on the Brotherhood, Egypt's best organised party until last year.A presidential vote is expected as early as April, once the referendum is approved, with a parliamentary election later.The constitution will replace one signed into law by Mursi a little more than a year ago after it was approved in a referendum.With the Brotherhood boycotting, there have been no signs of a major effort to mobilise a 'no' vote, and little or no criticism of the draft constitution in Egyptian media, which are overwhelmingly hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood.
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