Polls across Egypt have closed, state media reported, after a second and final day of voting on a draft constitution that could pave the way for a presidential bid by army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Though voting passed off more peacefully than on Tuesday, when at least 11 people were killed, officials said police arrested scores during protests by supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, who was removed from power by Sisi in July.
State television reported that counting had begun, and unofficial results could filter out within hours.
The constitution was expected to pass easily. There has been little or no sign of a campaign against it following a fierce government crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which was designated as a terrorist organisation by military-led government.
Sisi, who deposed Morsi after mass protests against his rule, appeared to link a decision on his presidential bid to the result, though analysts say his candidacy appears to be a foregone conclusion.
Anti-coup protesters rallied in the capital Cairo, Al-Sharqiyah in the north of Egypt and Fayoum and Delga, in the south.
“Any sense of stability is an illusion. That’s what people think General Sisi might offer,” said Shadi Hamid, the research director at Brookings Doha Centre. “But if we look at the last six months, Egypt has seen one of the worst spills of violence in its modern history.”
Tuesday’s events, of violence and celebration at polling stations, outline the polarisation that has gripped the country for years, a situation exacerbated since Morsi’s removal.
The army-placed government, determined to stifle any interruption of the vote, deployed about 200,000 security forces and about 160,000 army personnel to watch over the polling stations.
Songs about military
In Cairo’s upscale eastern district of Heliopolis, patriotic songs about the military blared from loudspeakers mounted on pickup trucks.
“This constitution is a nail in the coffin of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Badiea Mansour, a 65-year-old former tourism employee.
Newspapers, most of which are pro-military, claimed a “heavy” turnout on Tuesday was a defeat for Morsi and the Brotherhood.
“The elephant smashed the ant,” read a headline in the daily el-Watan. “Millions defy terror of the (Brotherhood) organisation in referendum lines.”
Those who campaigned against the draft have been arrested and now face criminal charges. Monitors suspected of Brotherhood ties were not given permission to oversee the vote.
The Brotherhood had called for a boycott of the vote. In its most recent statement late on Tuesday, it accused Egypt’s mostly pro-military media of falsifying reports on the turnout.
“They are trying to cover-up their early defeat,” said the statement from the Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup and Pro-Democracy Alliance, claiming the turnout was a mere 15 percent in southern Egypt and vowing to continue Brotherhood rallies.