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Egyptian Voters Said To Overwhelmingly Back New Constitution

Ballots are seen at a polling station in Cairo on Wednesday, the second day of voting in a referendum on a new constitution.
Mohammed Bendari
APA /Landov
Ballots are seen at a polling station in Cairo on Wednesday, the second day of voting in a referendum on a new constitution.

Egyptians voted overwhelmingly to approve a new constitution, official Egyptian media reported Thursday, giving a boost to the country's military-backed government.

Unofficial results posted by the state-run Al Ahram newspaper showed that more than 95 percent of voters approved the new constitution. The vote, which was held Tuesday and Wednesday, is seen as a boost for Army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is widely expected to seek Egypt's presidency. Sissi has not officially said whether he'll run.

Final results are expected in a few days, the official MENA news agency reported.

Al Ahram reported that "[t]he overwhelming 'yes' vote is likely to increase the feverish clamour for presidential elections to take place before parliamentary polls."

It added:

"After Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in July, army chief ... [Sissi] announced a roadmap to return the country to democratic rule. A few days later interim President Adly Mansour issued a constitutional declaration detailing the steps of the roadmap: a constitution referendum followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.

"However, the authorities seem now likely to hold presidential elections first."

The Muslim Brotherhood, which supported Morsi, and other Islamist parties boycotted the referendum. Last month, the government declared the group, which has been banned for much of its history, a terrorist organization.

The watchdog group Transparency International said in a statement that the "government is responding to a deep desire from the majority of the Egyptians to move toward a democratic path, peace and stability, but the current political context creates severe obstacles to advancing democracy."

The overwhelming approval of the constitution is seen by many Egyptians as a death knell to the Muslim Brotherhood, which dominated Egyptian politics following the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. But Morsi's presidency became increasingly unpopular, culminating in massive protests against his government. He was eventually ousted in a coup in July. He and his allies are standing trial on charges ranging from inciting violence to conspiring with foreign militant groups.

Reuters reported Egypt's stock market rallied to three-year highs this week, "driven partly by hopes for more stable government." But, the news agency notes, "the country has also seen the bloodiest internal strife in its modern history since [Morsi's] ouster. Bombings, attacks on security forces and bloody street violence occur regularly."

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.