by Mahmoud Fouly
CAIRO, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) -- The overwhelming approval of Egypt's new constitution reflected the strong desire of the Egyptians to move toward security and stability after three years of turmoil, political experts said.
The official result of the two-day referendum, declared on Saturday, showed that 98.1 percent of the participants said "yes" to the military-backed charter. The turnout was 38.6 percent, as 20.6 million out of some 53.4 million eligible voters took part in the polls.
The new charter is meant to replace the one drafted and approved in late 2012 under ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group, which is currently categorized by the interim government as "a terrorist organization."
"This overwhelming approval reflects the Egyptians' yearning for political, economic and social stability and desire to start building their state and turning a page of chaos and disorder," said Mohamed Mansour, head of Future Studies Center at Assiut University.
Morsi was removed last July by the Egyptian military, led by Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, after mass protests against his one-year rule. Since then, Sisi was urged to run for president as "a popular demand."
"The Egyptians voted for Sisi rather than for the articles of the new charter," Mansour told Xinhua, noting the sweeping approval marked "the birth of a new legitimacy set by the people."
Since Morsi's removal, lots of Islamists led by the Brotherhood have been holding anti-government protests, denouncing his ouster as "a military coup" and the new constitution as "illegitimate."
In response, the transitional government disbanded two major pro-Morsi sit-ins in mid-August, which left about 1,000 people dead, and arrested thousands of Morsi's supporters.
"There are internal, regional and international threats to national security, so people are determined to face them through the constitutional referendum," said Akram Badr-Eddin, head of the political science department at Cairo University.
Badr-Eddin said the 98.1 percent is "one very big nod" from the people who sought relief from three years of "troublesome" security, economic and political conditions.
"The country is suffering institutional vacancy, as there is neither a president nor a parliament at the moment," Badr-Eddin told Xinhua, arguing the new constitution will help fill in such vacancies through elections later on.
Meanwhile, some observers said that female voters led the scene at polls and the youth did not demonstrate strong presence throughout the two-day voting process.
"Women led the scene due to their growing political awareness and their suffering from the rigidity of the Brotherhood's one-year rule regarding women's rights," Fadia Mogheith, a political sociology researcher explained.
She told Xinhua that Egyptian women sought to preserve their rights in a male-dominated society through the new constitution.
"All Egyptians are part of the future roadmap, including those who did not take part in the referendum," Mogheith said, referring to the absent youth voters.
"The state must attract and include the youth who did not join the polls to translate the roadmap into a reality and achieve the goals of recent revolts," the researcher said.
The next challenge is to elect a parliament that is able to legislate the necessary laws to properly activate the articles of the newly-approved constitution, Mogheith added.
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