Cairo - Almost everyone who cast ballots supported Egypt's new constitution in this week's referendum, results announced on Saturday show, but a boycott by Islamists and low youth turnout suggest the country is still dangerously divided.
Nearly 20 million voters backed the new constitution, almost double the number of those who voted for one drafted in 2012 under the government of toppled Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. Only a narrow sliver of voters - 1.9% - voted against the charter, after a massive government-sponsored campaign supporting it and the arrest of activists campaigning against it.
"Despite a milieu of intense social upheaval and acts of terrorism and sabotage that sought to derail the process, Egyptians have now marked yet another defining moment in our roadmap to democracy," presidential spokesperson Ehab Badawy said. "The outcome represents nothing less than the dawning of a new Egypt."
The expected overwhelming support for the charter is seen as key to legitimising Egypt's military-backed interim government, and the political plan put in place since Morsi's ouster in July. Analysts say it also suggests military chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who led the coup against Morsi, has enough popular support to make a rumoured run for the presidency himself.
It was the first vote since the military removed Morsi following massive protests in July. Hundreds celebrated in the streets after officials announced the results, including Hoda Hamza, a housewife who waved an Egyptian flag in Cairo's Tahrir Square and carried a picture of el-Sissi with an inscription reading: "By the order of the people, el-Sissi is president."
Hamza called the passage of the constitution a foregone conclusion.
Now, "I wish el-Sissi will be president," Hamza said. "We have no better man. ... If it weren't for the army, we wouldn't have food on the table."