CAIRO (AP) — Egyptians are voting Saturday on a disputed draft constitution that has deeply polarized the country and plunged it into its worst crisis since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in last year’s uprising. The referendum and draft charter have pitted supporters of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi against largely secular, liberal and Christian groups who fear the new document enshrines too big a role for Islam and undermines freedoms of expression, gender equality and rights of minorities.
The new crisis means that the political instability that followed Mubarak’s February 2011 overthrow will likely continue.
Here are some key events from 23 months of turmoil and transition.
Jan. 25, 2011 — Egyptians hold nationwide demonstrations against the authoritarian rule of Mubarak, who has led the country for nearly three decades, protesting against police brutality and demanding social justice.
Jan. 26 — A large security force moves into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, beating and arresting protesters, using rubber bullets and tear gas. Three protesters are killed in similar protests outside of Cairo — among the first of what will become about 900 dead from clashes during the uprising.
Jan. 28 — Protesters burn down the ruling party’s headquarters and the military is deployed. Police virtually vanish from Egypt’s streets, leading to a wave of looting, robbery and arson. Protesters occupy Tahrir square for a prolonged sit-in.
Feb. 11 — Mubarak steps down and turns power over to the military. Two days later the body of top generals, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, dissolves parliament and suspends the constitution, meeting two key demands of protesters.
March 19 — Egyptians cast their first vote on constitutional amendments sponsored by the ruling military which set the timeline for the country’s transition to democracy, including the first parliamentary and presidential elections.
Nov. 28 — Voting begins in Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since Mubarak’s ouster. The election is held over a period of several weeks and concludes in January with nearly half the seats won by the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood.
April 20, 2012 — The presidential campaign officially begins. A first round of voting on May 23-24 determines that Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister under Mubarak, will face each other in a runoff.
June 14 — The Supreme Constitutional Court rules to dissolve the Islamist-dominated lower house of parliament on grounds that a third of the chamber members were elected illegally. The military swiftly closes down parliament.
June 16-17 — Egyptians vote in the runoff between Morsi and Shafiq. The generals issue a ‘‘constitutional declaration’’ giving them sweeping authority to maintain their grip on power and limiting the powers of the president.
June 24 — Election officials declare Morsi the winner of Egypt’s first free election, with 51.7 percent of the vote.
June 29 — Morsi, now president-elect, delivers a rousing speech in Tahrir Square, vowing to fight on behalf of the people and to restore powers the generals have taken away from him.
June 30 — Morsi takes his formal oath before the Supreme Constitutional Court. A day earlier he had read a symbolic oath in Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the revolution.
July 8 — Morsi issues a surprise decree overruling the court’s dissolution of parliament and challenging the generals.
July 9 — Parliament convenes in defiance of the court ruling disbanding it. In a short session it approves a new law that effectively places the panel tasked with writing the country’s new constitution above judicial review.
Aug. 12 — In a bold move, Morsi orders the retirement of the head of the ruling military council, longtime defense minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and his chief of staff. He also cancels the military-declared constitutional amendments that gave the top generals wide powers and undermined his authority. The move was seen as way to curb the military’s role in political affairs but it also gave Morsi the power to legislate in the absence of parliament.
Nov. 19 — Several members of liberal parties and representatives of Egypt’s churches announce their withdrawal from the 100-member constituent assembly tasked with writing Egypt’s constitution, protesting what they said were attempts to impose ultraconservative Islamist content.
Nov. 21- Morsi negotiates a cease-fire deal between Hamas and Israel, after an 8-day conflict that threatened to widen into an Israeli ground operation into the Gaza Strip. It was a major diplomatic triumph for Morsi, establishing his role as a regional player with sway over the militant group Hamas, and influence with Israel and the U.S.Continued...