(CAIRO) — Preliminary results in Egypt indicate that a majority of voters on Saturday approved the country’s new constitution, a charter backed by President Mohammed Morsi and his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Observers say that this almost certainly means the constitution will pass, because the second day of voting — next Saturday — takes place in areas that are even more likely to approve the new charter.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, announced on Sunday that an unofficial tally showed 56.5 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the draft constitution. Initial results also indicate that about one-third of 26 million eligible voters went to the polls.
The Morsi government believes approval will finally bring stability to Egypt, but others feel the closeness of the vote will simply extend Egypt’s deepening political instability.
Over the past several weeks, there have been violent clashes between Islamists and secularists.
Opposition groups say the first round of voting should be declared invalid by Egypt’s High Elections Commission because of rampant polling irregularities. There are no indications that will happen.
If the new charter is approved, elections for the lower level of parliament would have to take place within two months. Islamists are expected to win a majority of those seats.
Observers say a constitutional victory would significantly strengthen Morsi and his political allies and allow them to focus on Egypt’s crumbling economy.
They are also likely to make Egypt a more conservative, more religious country.
The opposition, however, feels Morsi is an autocrat, and cite voting irregularities and low turnout as a sign that the proposed constitution is illegitimate. They have vowed to continue their fight.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Chieu Luu and Huizhong Wu, CNN
Holly Yan, Chuck Johnston and David Williams, CNN