Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt has passed its first milestone on the military-backed roadmap this week, with reports agreeing that Egyptian voters have overwhelmingly backed a new constitution during the two-day nationwide referendum.
A senior government official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity, claimed that more than 80 percent of voters had supported the constitution, adding that this also represented a strong show of support for the transitional roadmap. Initial polling reported by Egyptian state media said that 90 percent of voters had backed the constitution, but there was little information about voter turnout.
Interim President Adly Mansour is expected to officially announce the results of the referendum within the next few days, as well as prospective dates for the parliamentary and presidential elections. It remains unclear whether Mansour will announce that the parliamentary elections will be held first, according to the roadmap, or whether he will seek to amend this and call for presidential elections to come first. This comes amid increasing pressure on popular Egypt Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to announce his own intentions, with many believing that a strong “yes” vote and high voter turnout could serve as a popular springboard for a Sisi presidential bid.
Egyptian Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told Asharq Al-Awsat that there had been “unprecedented” voter turnout over the two-day referendum. He said: “There has been an intense and unprecedented response and acceptance on the part of the voters.”
He added that the public response to the vote “showed Egypt in an excellent light to the watching world, truly embodying the great June 30 revolution.”
Ibrahim also hailed the role played by Egypt’s security forces during the two-day vote, citing several voting centers that had been the scenes of violence by “Muslim Brotherhood terrorists.”
The Interior Ministry announced that at least 444 people had been arrested for protesting and disrupting polling stations over the two-day vote. At least nine people were reported killed on Tuesday in clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and security forces. The former ruling Muslim Brotherhood had denounced the draft constitution and referendum, calling on Egyptians to boycott the vote.
Amr Moussa, chairman of the 50-member constitution-drafting committee, also hailed the voter turnout. In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, he described the vote as the beginning of Egypt’s “third republic,” drawing a line under Mohamed Mursi’s one-year rule.
Moussa, himself a former presidential candidate, also backed a presidential bid by military strongman Sisi. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I believe that Sisi will take this decision [to stand for president] and I back this.”
He added: “This [Sisi running for presidency] is a very normal scenario, and he must stand.”