CAIRO Egyptians endorsed a controversial, Islamist-backed constitution after the first day of voting, but without the support of the capital, according to initial results, raising new doubts that it could bring stability to an increasingly polarized Egypt.
According to newspaper tallies of the votes, 56 percent of Egyptians in the 10 governorates who voted Saturday endorsed the constitution. But in Cairo, 57 percent rejected it. The vote continues next Saturday when the remaining 17 governorates are to vote.
The vote appeared to be as much a referendum on Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the party through which Morsi ascended to the presidency, as the constitution itself.
Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood heralded the new document as the pathway to stability. But the opposition groups Christians, secularists, liberals and moderates called it divisive and unrepresentative.
Where voters were once festive and exuberant to take part in past elections, on Saturday the crowds were weary, even those embracing the constitution. It was Egypt's third election this year and with each vote, the country has only become more divided.
And since the constitutional assembly hastily passed the document earlier this month, nine Egyptians have died in protests, the deadliest political crisis since Morsi's June election.
There were accusations throughout the day of judges swaying voters, vote rigging, supporters outside telling voters whom to pick and voters already listed as having cast ballots when they had not.
There were fewer election monitors Saturday as international groups did not have enough time to send representatives, and opposition groups hurriedly looked for volunteers, creating a cloud of doubt over the process.
The main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, said it was told of "tens of violations."
Voters stood in long lines as many judges boycotted the process, leading to fewer polling stations. Some accused their opponents of impropriety. Others expressed little hope that the proposed constitution would endure.
Supporters called it flawed, but the starting point for a stable government. Many said they embraced it because it included provisions that allowed parliament to make changes.
Anwar Ahmed, 50, had several blue checks on her hand to remind her to mark the blue circle on the ballot for "yes," even though she had not read it.
"I want the country to move on," Ahmed said. "I don't want to wait for another year. My son read the constitution and he says that it has a lot of good things."
While this vote was arguably the most important Egyptians have faced, they also seemed the least educated about the choices. Many said they had not read the document. Some said they thought they were voting for the president again.
Others, meanwhile, asked the judge monitoring the process whom they should vote for. Still others did not know what would happen if the referendum failed.
At polling stations, those who once stood at rival protests for the past two weeks were suddenly standing side by side in the same line. In the northern middle-class neighborhood of Shobra, 30-year friends and neighbors Instasar Abdel Fadel, 49, and Zainab Mohammed, 40, bickered on the way to the polling station and all the way back home.
"I want stability. We have to have something," said Fadel, who voted for Morsi in the presidential election. "We want better circumstances for our country and "
"How can you say that?" interrupted Mohammed, who did not let her finish her thought, and who voted for Morsi rival Ahmed Shafiq in the election. "Who brought these circumstances to us? What has Morsi done?"
But Mohammed could not say what she wanted to happen if the constitution was voted down and if she was willing to wait another year for a new constitutional assembly to rewrite the document.
Judge Bassem al-Farouk, who was monitoring elections in Shobra, said the 236-page document was too long and too vague to be a proper contract between the people and their government.
"It will be very difficult to follow," he said.
Because of the shortage of judges, voting was extended over two Saturdays so those willing to participate could monitor polling stations.