Voting has begun in Egypt in a referendum on the new constitution proposed by the military-imposed civilian government. The plebescite is seen as a key step in restoring civilian rule in Egypt after the military deposed Mohamed Morsi and banned his Muslim Brotherhood party, and the massive protests against Morsi’s attempt to foist an Islamist constitution on the nation will surely prompt a huge turnout for the two-day vote:

Egyptians were voting Tuesday on a draft constitution that represents a key milestone in a military-backed roadmap put in place after the nation’s Islamist president was overthrown in a popularly backed coup last July.

The two-day balloting also deals a heavy blow to the Muslim Brotherhood’s campaign for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and paves the way for a likely presidential run by the nation’s top general, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Few doubt that Egyptians, who staged mass protests against Morsi’s rule before his ouster, will turn out in big numbers and vote “yes” in the referendum.

A massive security operation was under way to protect polling stations and voters against possible attacks by militants loyal to Morsi, with 160,000 soldiers and more than 200,000 policemen deployed across the nation of some 90 million people.

Security operation? Certainly. Vote suppression? Possibly. CNN reports that the military began rounding up dissenters pushing for a No vote in the plebescite, calling into question the fairness of the proceedings:

And it’s off to the kind of start that the military would have hoped to avoid, if for no other reason than their own credibility:

Violence marked the beginning of a two-day referendum as Egyptians went to the polls Tuesday for the second time in 13 months to reshape their country’s future.

Five people died in clashes, the semiofficial Al-Ahram news agency reported.

One person was killed, two were injured and 10 were arrested in clashes Tuesday afternoon outside a polling station in Nahya, Giza, the news agency said, citing the Interior Ministry.

The dead protester had been demonstrating in favor of Mohamed Morsy, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader who became the nation’s first democratically elected president in June 2012 but was ousted from the job a year later in a military coup.

Another three people were killed and four injured in Upper Egypt’s Sohag governorate in a pro-Muslim Brotherhood march, the agency said, citing a security source.

CNN talks to an Egyptian investment banker about the impact of the constitution, which he claims will restore equal rights and stability. It will, Ahmed Heikal says, also serve as a referendum on the military’s coup against Mohamed Morsi’s elected government, which tried to push through a very different constitution. The CNN host wonders whether that’s not being a little too optimistic about the military’s hold on the country:

Before the Arab Spring, Western opinion on the Egyptian government’s actions would probably have carried significant weight. After the military watched as Barack Obama and the West tossed their 30-year ally Hosni Mubarak under the bus and celebrated the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, our influence on this process will probably be minimal. The military has decided what it wants, and it’s going to make sure it gets it. In Egypt, like so many other countries in this region, the choices for the West are between bad and worse. This looks like bad, at least at the moment.