Some 98.1 percent of Egyptian voters have approved a new, military-backed constitution, the country’s election committee said Saturday, though turnout for the referendum was lower than some officials had predicted.
Egypt’s High Election Commission said 38.6 percent of the country’s more than 53 million eligible voters took part in the two-day poll, seen by officials as key in legitimising the country’s military-backed interim government and its plan for parliamentary and presidential elections.
Officials say 20.6 million voters cast ballots, with 20.3 million votes counted after eliminating those voided.
However, the turnout was well below the 55 percent that an Interior Ministry official had estimated after polls closed on Thursday.
It is the first public vote to be held in the country since the military removed Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi, following massive protests in July.
The new constitution allows for a presidential election to be held before parliamentary polls, a change in the transition plan announced by the army after Morsi’s overthrow.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is widely seen as the front-runner for the presidency and is expected to announce his candidacy within a few days.
Morsi supporters boycott vote
The new constitution could also lead to an outright ban on Islamist parties and strengthen the political grip of the already powerful military establishment that has put itself squarely back at the heart of power since toppling Morsi.
Morsi’s supporters and his outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, who have been holding daily protests since the former president was removed from power, boycotted the vote and have alleged the results were forged.
Activists and monitoring groups have also raised serious concerns over the atmosphere in which voting took place, with US-based Democracy International saying that “arrests and detention of dissenting voices” took place ahead of the poll.
In the lead up to the vote, police arrested those campaigning for a “no” vote on the referendum, leaving little room for debate about the document.
On Friday, supporters of Morsi took to the streets to denounce the draft charter. Some protests turned violent. Four people were killed in the ensuing clashes, Egypt’s Health Ministry said Saturday.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-01-18