The election was seen as key to legitimizing its military-backed interim government and wasn’t a surprise, as authorities lobbied the public extensively to support it.
But the turnout, only slightly higher than a referendum last year sponsored by the government of toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, suggests a nation that is still deeply divided.
Egypt’s High Election Commission said 38.6 percent of the country’s more than 53 million eligible voters took part in the two-day poll Tuesday and Wednesday. Judge Nabil Salib, who heads the commission, said 20.6 million voters cast ballots, with some 20.3 million votes counted after eliminating those voided.
Salib called the vote an “unrivalled success” and “an unprecedented turnout”. However, a similar referendum in 2012 supported by Morsi’s government saw a 32.9 percent turnout.
This is the first vote since the military removed Morsi following massive protests in July.
Morsi’s supporters and his outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group boycotted the vote and have alleged the results were forged. The Brotherhood has vowed to keep up their near-daily protests.
While announcing the results, Salib suggested voter participation would have been higher if it weren’t for the vote coinciding with university mid-term exams that kept students, and younger voters, away.
On Friday, supporters of Morsi took to the streets to denounce the draft charter. Some protests turned violent. Four people were killed in the ensuing clashes, Egypt’s Health Ministry said Saturday. It said 15 people were injured nationwide.