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At Egypt voting stations, strong views on draft constitution -- both for and against

A government official checks voter ID cards outside a polling station near Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday.
A government official checks voter ID cards outside a polling station near Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday.Ziad Jaber / NBC News

CAIRO -- People across Egypt headed to the polls on Saturday for the second and final round of voting on the country’s controversial Islamist-backed constitution. We visited the Jazeera National School in Giza, minutes from downtown Cairo, where dozens of men and women, young and old turned out to cast their ballots.

With armed soldiers guarding the doors, voters lined up at the school’s two polling places, some flashing “V for Victory” symbols towards our cameras as they stood in line. But while the process appeared to carry on smoothly, the opinions of those we spoke to left little indication if the outcome of today’s referendum will signal an end to the recent political turmoil the country has found itself in.

On Friday, supporters and opponents of President Mohammad Morsi clashed in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, leaving more than 60 people injured.

That didn’t seem to faze Mohammad Abdel Hameed, who voted “Yes” at the school, accompanied by his young son. “I can count the number of people who don’t approve of this constitution with one hand,” he said. “Those in Alexandria, and Tahrir Square. That’s it.” He hoped passing the referendum would lead to economic and scientific prosperity under Morsi’s leadership. “Everything I’ve read in this constitution, from the first round of voting till now, it’s all great. There’s nothing bad for any Muslims, Christians or Jews. I wish people would take the opportunity to understand this constitution.”

Ahmad Hussein
Ahmad HusseinZiad Jaber / NBC News

Ahmad Hussein echoed his sentiment. “For the first time in Egypt’s history, the constitution explicitly calls for the freedom of religion for Christians and Jews. The Islamist constitution provides those protections,” he said. Hussein argued that opponents of Morsi and the document were simply looking to destabilize the nation. “[The opposition] wants to sabotage the current of political Islam by any means. They want to disrupt the country politically and economically, in addition to its security,” he said. “Dr. Morsi told them to join the discussion about the points they find controversial to solve this issue and they said ‘No!’. What’s wrong with this constitution? Even if there are some sticking points, let’s resolve them.”

Related: Egypt VP quits as vote held

Inside the school’s second polling place, dozens of women -- many donned in traditional hijab and niqab -- packed the polling booths, checking “Yes” or “No” in circles on the ballot. As they emerged one by one into the school yard, many seemed pleased to show off their purple finger prints, markers now ubiquitous with voting in the region.

Nuha Yemeni, a psychologist, and her mother Um Aziza showed off their ink outside the school. “We all voted 'No', we’re with Team 'No',” Yemeni said, laughing as she explained her reservations about the constitution. “Even if it passes, we hope there can be amendments within the parliament,” she said. “I want Egypt to be a calm country, a real democracy. In this moment, I can’t realize the future…with the Ikhwan [Arabic for Muslim Brotherhood], I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.”

That's also why Aziza voted no. “This is our country…our country is gone,” added Aziza. “God protect it. We’re lost.” 

Um Aziza and her daughter Nuha Yemeni, center, show that they voted Saturday.
Um Aziza and her daughter Nuha Yemeni, center, show that they voted Saturday.Ziad Jaber / NBC News

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