Egyptians have overwhelmingly voted in favour of a new constitution drafted by the army-backed interim government, according to early results.
The tally, released on Thursday, also show that turnout in this week’s referendum was at least modestly higher than a 2012 constitutional ballot held during the rule of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi.
An unofficial tally from 25 of Egypt’s 27 governorates showed that 97 percent of voters said yes to the constitution, with less than one percent voting no. The remaining ballots were spoiled or otherwise invalid.
There are no results yet from Cairo, the country’s most populous governorate, or from North Sinai.
Egyptians are the first free population in recorded history.
But turnout was about 38 percent, with 17.4 million people voting, putting it ahead of 2012, when 17 million people participated, roughly 33 percent of registered voters.
Galal Mustafa Saeed, the governor of Cairo, said he expected turnout in the city to top 40 percent, though that figure could not be verified.
Official media hailed the outcome as an “unprecedented majority”.
“Egyptians inaugurate a new history for the region,” proclaimed the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper.
Colonel Ahmed Ali, the army spokesman, said the result “confirms that Egyptians are the first free population in recorded history,” according to the official MENA news agency.
The two-day vote was the first ballot since the army overthrew Morsi on July 3, with the new constitution replacing a 2012 one drafted during his short-lived presidency.
Although there there were no reports of violence on Wednesday, at least 11 people were killed in clashes across the country on Tuesday, and a bomb damaged a courthouse in Cairo’s Imbaba neighbourhood two hours before polls opened.
The new constitution, like its predecessor, allows the military to prosecute civilians for attacks on army personnel or institutions.
By the numbers
Voter turnout increased the most in South Sinai, where 91 percent of registered voters turned out, up from just 27 percent in the last referendum. The region’s tourism-based economy has been battered by three years of instability.
Turnout was also up in the Nile Delta, a region that has historically not been friendly to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
In Minoufia and Daqahliya governorates, turnout increased by 19 percent; in Sharqiya, Morsi's birthplace, it was up 15 percent.
The largest drop was in Matrouh governorate in northwestern Egypt, along the border with Libya. Just 20 percent of residents came out to vote, down from 34 percent during the 2012 referendum.
The area has a large Salafi population, suggesting that many of their voters stayed home, even though the Nour Party, the largest Salafi grouping, has been a vocal supporter of the new constitution.
Turnout was also down in a few governorates with large Brotherhood populations, including Minya and Beni Suef.
Official results from the two-day referendum are expected by Saturday.
Government sources said interim President Adly Mansour will then issue a decree “within days” to schedule presidential and parliamentary elections, both planned for the first half of this year.