CAIRO — Authorities in Egypt say the country has voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new military-backed constitution, written to replace a pro-Islamist charter drafted by allies of ousted former president Mohamed Morsi.
Official figures released Saturday in Cairo show a fairly low turnout of less than 40 percent of Egypt's 53 million eligible voters in the two-day poll. Morsi's supporters boycotted the vote and call the results forged.
A crowd applauded as Judge Nabil Salib, head of Egypt's High Election Commission, announced the voter statistics, calling the 38-percent turnout higher than the 2012 constitutional referendum in which Egyptians approved the charter presented by then-president Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to Salib, more than 98 percent of voters who did cast ballots in this weekend's poll — Egypt's first since the military toppled the country's first democratically-elected civilian president — resoundingly approved the new constitution.
Salib said less than 250,000 ballots were deemed invalid, and results showed 98.1 percent of valid ballots approved the new constitution, with 1.9 percent of ballots cast against it.
Said Sadek, who teaches political sociology at the American University in Cairo, noted the significance of the vote in Cairo to approve the constitution, including greater participation by women, many of whom stayed home during the 2012 referendum.
"In 2012, Cairo said 'no' to the constitution of Dr. Morsi. This year it said 'yes.' Also, there were more people coming voluntarily, whereas in 2012 mobilization was made by the Muslim Brotherhood with buses," he said.
Morsi's 2012 draft constitution, which was opposed by many who advocate secular Egyptian government, passed with 64 percent of the vote. Much of Egypt's judiciary refused to supervise the 2012 vote, which left Islamist judges in charge of most polling stations.
"Here, the media played a role [and the defense minister] General Abdel Fatah Sisi played a role," said Sadek. "Also, voter turnout [was] different: 55 percent women, while men are 45 percent. Why? Women have a sense of danger and feel they need to make sure that the Islamists are out."
Sadek said the overall turnout of 38.9 percent of the electorate was fairly consistent with international norms, since “presidential and parliamentary elections usually draw more voters than local elections or referendums.”
Sadek contends that most Egyptians who cast ballots this past week were not really approving the new constitution, but were voting in favor to restore stability after two years of turmoil.
"People voted not for the constitution," he said. "Only 5 percent read it, according to Basira polling center, so most likely people went to the polling stations and voted for stability. They voted for Sisi to be the new president. They voted against the Muslim Brotherhood, and if you look who voted, class-wise, it was basically the middle and upper classes."
Egyptian state television announced that interim President Adly Mansour will address the country within 24 to 48 hours to discuss the “road-map” to democracy announced by the military last July. He is widely expected to say that presidential elections will precede voting for a new parliament.
The this weekend's vote is key to legitimizing the country's military-backed transition plan after deposing the Islamist president Morsi following widespread unrest over his rule.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.