Abu Dhabi: Egypt’s election committee yesterday postponed early voting on a draft constitution for Egyptians living abroad, including in the UAE, until Wednesday.

The referendum was originally scheduled to begin yesterday for Egyptian expatriates living abroad and run until Tuesday, while Egyptian citizens were scheduled to vote on the constitution on December 15.

Egypt’s state news agency Mena did not say whether the postponement of the early ballots would affect the time of voting in Egypt, but Vice-President Mahmoud Mekki told Al Jazeera TV that the date of referendum was in the hands of the election committee.

Around 61,000 out of more than 300,000 Egyptians living and working in the UAE are registered to cast absentee ballots in Egypt’s embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai. It is estimated that more than eight million Egyptians are working and living abroad, of which nearly 600,000 are registered voters overseas.

Aides to Mohammad Mursi floated the possibility of cancelling the whole referendum in the first signs that the Egyptian President is finally yielding to days of deadly clashes and protests. The crisis deepened when Mursi called for a December 15 national referendum on the draft constitution hurriedly produced by the Islamist-led constituent assembly. Liberals feared that the draft was infused with articles that would pave the way for Islamising Egypt.

The announcement by Egyptian election committee head Esmail Hamdi to delay early voting came as a surprise for most Egyptians. Legal Affairs Minister Mohammad Mahsoub told news agencies that the government was weighing several proposals — including calling off the referendum and returning it to the constituent assembly for changes. Another possibility was disbanding the constituent assembly and forming a new one, either by direct vote or an agreement among the political forces.