Egypt awaits results of constitution referendum

CAIRO - Egyptians are awaiting the results of a referendum on a new constitution, with officials saying it has been overwhelmingly approved.

The draft constitution replaces one introduced by Mohammed Morsi before the Islamist president was ousted.

State media report that 37% of registered voters took part, slightly more than in the vote under Mr Morsi.

The referendum is being seen as a vote on the legitimacy of his removal and of the army, which removed him.

It was boycotted by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement Mr Morsi comes from and which wants to see him returned to office.

On the first day of voting on Tuesday, nine people died in clashes involving Mr Morsi's supporters. The second day passed off largely peacefully.

Some 400 people are said to have been arrested over the two days for disrupting the vote.

On Thursday, police fired tear gas during clashes with students protesting outside Cairo University in the Giza district.

The state-run Al Ahram newspaper put the unofficial turnout at just under 37% of registered voters.

It projected a more than 90% win by the "yes" campaign in all regions, except for North Sinai, where votes have not yet been counted.

In the December 2012 constitutional referendum - held while Mohammed Morsi was in power and boycotted by secularists - 33% of Egypt's 53 million voters took part. The draft was approved by 64% of voters.

The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Cairo says voter participation may not have been as high as the military and the interim government it backs may have liked, but given Egypt's history of low turnouts it is probably enough for them to argue their vision for the country's future has been endorsed.

The high proportion of yes votes is more a reflection of the fact that those opposed to the constitution, including the Brotherhood, boycotted the poll, rather than an indication of a tidal wave of enthusiasm for the document, says our correspondent.

Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is likely see the result as an invitation to run for president when elections take place, he adds.

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