CAIRO, Jan. 12 -- Egyptian interim president Adli Mansour urged Egyptians to participate in the constitutional referendum slated for Tuesday and Wednesday amid ongoing protests and tight security measures, state TV reported on Sunday.
"Let us go to the polls as we took into the streets during Jan. 25 and June 30 to continue the Egyptian revolutions with a constitution establishes the first station towards the modern democratic civil country," Mansour said, invoking the two mass uprisings that captured the world's attention and led to the toppling of two presidents within three years.
Mansour stressed that endorsing the constitution will pave the road for democracy, hinting that the presidential election may be held before the parliamentary elections if ratified.
The new draft constitution, which replaced the 2012 constitution drafted by the Islamist-dominated government of former President Mohamed Morsi, opens the door to changes in the transitional roadmap by allowing the interim authorities to hold presidential election before parliamentary polls, or call for both elections at the same time.
The transitional roadmap was announced by the army after ousting president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. It scheduled parliamentary elections first and also stipulated that "election procedures" should start within six months of the ratification of the draft constitution.
However, the decision of when and how the elections will be held is left to Mansour, who has presidential powers until an elected president is sworn in.
Egypt's army chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, a recent media darling since the June 30 protests, also called on Sunday for a massive turnout for the referendum, hoping his influence will help drive his supporters to the polls.
Meanwhile, the country's interior and defense ministries announced they will deploy 380,000 soldiers, policemen and officers to secure polling centers, in addition to 650 battle groups "to swiftly interfere in case of disorder", official news agency MENA reported on Sunday. The ministry added that their civil protection forces will use sniffer dogs and explosive detectors to secure roads for police forces and the army said it would use helicopters to guard against possible attacks.
More than 52 million people are eligible to take part in the referendum with nearly 30,000 balloting stations nation-wide, MENA quoted Sayed Shafiq, an assistant to the interior minister as saying.
Many of the country's judges have said they will oversee the vote as required by the law to ensure it is legitimate. Six international organizations and 67 local groups had been approved to monitor the referendum, the interim government said.
The new draft constitution is notable for its advancements in minority, women, and freedom rights. It allocates 25 percent of the local councils' seats to women, whereas Egypt's former parliament had only eight female Brotherhood represent among the 454 members of the legislative authority.
Although the new constitution bans oppression and human trafficking, critics say that it also expands the military's power, including allowing the controversial military trials of civilians.
As many as 94,000 Egyptians out of 800,000 eligible voters from 138 communities abroad cast their ballots in the public referendum, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Expatriate voting ended on Sunday.
As the interim government readies for the referendum, violent clashes continue to take place around the country between university students, mostly Brotherhood supporters or revolutionary activists, and security forces surrounding the campus, MENA said in another report.
Cairo University students were accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at the security forces who responded by firing tear gas to disperse them, as the students chanted against the army and the interim government, some of whom were calling for Morsi's reinstatement.
The pro-Morsi alliance formed mainly of Muslim Brotherhood members announced their intention to boycott the referendum and called for continual protests outside the balloting stations, rejecting the army-backed constitution.
In anticipation of violence and possible clashes, the health ministry announced Sunday a comprehensive emergency plan and will raise the maximum alert status in all hospitals across the country during the two-day referendum.