An overwhelming majority of Egyptians who voted on the country's new constitution backed the draft charter, a senior Egyptian official has said, despite criticism from an international monitoring group of a clampdown on free speech ahead of the election.
The election official said that unofficial results after most of the ballots had been counted indicated that more than 90pc voted 'yes' on the constitution. He declined to give an estimate on the final turnout and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The interim government is looking not only for a strong 'yes' majority but also a large turnout to win undisputed legitimacy and perhaps a popular mandate for the military chief, Gen Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, to run for president later this year.
An incomplete estimate published by the state news agency MENA showed a turnout of about 40pc in Cairo and in Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria -- both higher than in the 2012 referendum on the Islamist-backed constitution.
In the western border province of Masra Matrouh, which has a sizeable constituency of Islamists, turnout was the lowest, with only 20pc of voters showing up, in comparison to 36.5pc participation in 2012.
In the southern province of Assiut, considered a stronghold of Islamists but with a large Christian population, participation was slightly less than in 2012, dropping from 28pc to 25pc.
The Election Commission said results will be announced tomorrow evening.
The vote, held Tuesday and Wednesday, was a milestone for Egypt's interim government, installed by the military after a July coup toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi following mass protests demanding that he step down.
Many considered the vote as key to restoring stability and supporting the current government in the face of continued opposition and protests from Morsi supporters.
However, yesterday students rallied outside the campus of the University of Cairo and fought with security forces. Police fired tear gas, pushing the students back and later arrested 23, authorities said.