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In brief: Egypt approves constitution changes

Mon., March 21, 2011, midnight

CAIRO, Egypt – Egyptians moved further beyond the legacy of former President Hosni Mubarak’s strongman rule by voting overwhelmingly to amend the nation’s constitution and head swiftly toward parliamentary and presidential elections, according to results of a referendum announced Sunday.

The referendum, which calls for judicial oversight of elections and limited presidential terms, was the first step to bring Egypt closer to a democracy after decades of corrupt one-party rule. The outcome is expected to spur chaotic, if exciting, races for parliament and president in coming months.

The measure passed with 77.2 percent of the vote. More than 18 million voters, or about 41 percent of those eligible, cast ballots nationwide Saturday.

In addition to limiting presidents to two four-year terms, the constitutional changes will eliminate restrictions on the formation of political parties and require a popular referendum before the country’s controversial emergency law, often employed to limit dissent, is used for more than six months.

Haiti election full of glitches, but calm

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – It was a day of missing ballots, late starts – and relative calm – Sunday in Haiti, where a presidential runoff took place four months after a disastrous first round marked by widespread violence and contested results.

In some places, there were no ballots. In others, there was only dry ink to mark a voter’s finger. In many more, disenfranchised voters were turned away from polls and boisterous political party operatives got in the way.

But despite the irregularities, authorities said the day went smoothly, without the widespread fraud that marred November’s election.

The second round was between musician Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly and former first lady Mirlande Manigat. Preliminary results are expected March 31; final results will not be announced until April 16.

North Korea warns South over border

SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea on Sunday warned South Korea of deadly consequences for allegedly allowing U.S. troops to come close to the countries’ tense border for reconnaissance missions and to commit provocative acts such as taking photos with women and drinking there.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry and the American-led U.N. Command dismissed the accusation as groundless. They were “not true” and the North made similar accusations in the past, U.N. Command spokesman Kim Yong-kyu said.

The U.N. Command has jurisdiction over the demilitarized zone and command troops have only patrolled along the Korean demilitarized zone, Kim and South Korean Defense Ministry officials said.

North Korea accused Seoul of permitting “the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops” to come as close as some 65 feet from the border to monitor vehicle and personnel movements in the North, according to Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.

A KCNA dispatch accused the U.S. troops of bringing women to the area and taking photos together, drinking and hurling liquor bottles at North Korean guard posts.


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