Cairo (AFP) – Egypt awaited Thursday results of a referendum on a new constitution that could launch a presidential bid by the army chief, with initial tallies indicating overwhelming support for the charter.
Given a boycott by the Islamist opposition, the result has never been in doubt, but the military-installed government is hoping for a large turnout to bolster its democratic credentials after the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi.
State media suggested at least 90 percent of those voting had supported the new charter, which the authorities say provides greater freedom of speech and protection of women’s rights.
“The people say ‘Yes,'” said a front-page headline in Al-Akhbar, while Al-Ahram reported that 90 percent of voters had backed the charter.
After two days of voting that were marred by sporadic and deadly clashes between Morsi’s Islamist supporters and police, polling ended at 9:00 pm Wednesday.
Final results are expected within 72 hours from then.
Officials have said army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled the Islamist Morsi in July, will closely monitor turnout as he mulls going for the top job himself in an election promised for later this year.
Sisi has said he is prepared to run if there is enough popular support, and the referendum is seen as providing the first concrete test.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, now designated a terrorist group, had hoped a low turnout would send a message of discontent over Morsi’s overthrow and a brutal crackdown on his supporters.
The military’s spokesman thanked the “masses” of voters for taking part in what he called the “heroic battle of the referendum.”
On Tuesday, clashes between Morsi supporters and their opponents and police killed at least nine people, but no fatal incidents were reported Wednesday.
Additionally, at least 444 people were arrested for protesting and disrupting polling , the interior ministry said.