CAIRO — The Muslim Brotherhood, the main group aligned with President Mohamed Morsi, on Sunday predicted a big win for ratification of Egypt’s Islamist-backed draft constitution after the first round of voting.
Millions of Egyptians voted peacefully on Saturday, hoping that the results would end three weeks of violence, division, and distrust between Islamists and their opponents on the ground rules of Egypt’s promised democracy.
In districts that voted Saturday, including opposition strongholds of Cairo and Alexandria, about 57 percent of voters approved the new constitution, according to preliminary tallies by state news media Sunday.
Half of the country will vote next Saturday in predominantly rural areas that are expected to heavily favor the charter.
The relatively narrow margin of victory for the charter so far, combined with low turnout — 33 percent, according to the unofficial tallies, down from 41 percent in a referendum on a temporary constitution last year — seemed likely to embolden the non-Islamist opposition that has called for Morsi to scrap the charter and convene a new constitutional assembly.
A spokesman for the main coalition opposing the charter said that it had found widespread irregularities in voting. In Cairo, the biggest city, about 56 percent voted no, according to an unofficial tally by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Regardless of the results, the orderly balloting and long lines marked yet another turning point for Egypt’s nearly two-year-old revolution.
After three weeks of clashes and threats of a boycott, millions of voters appeared for the moment to pull back from the brink of civil discord and reaffirm their trust in the ballot box, spending hours in long lines to vote in the sixth national election since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak 22 months ago.
It remained to be seen whether the losing side would accept the results, or how long the peace might last. Many who voted yes said they were doing so to end the chaos of the transition rather than to endorse the text of the charter. Despite opposition warnings of chaos, the streets of the capital were free of major protests for the first time in weeks.
And if the constitution is approved by the margins his supporters predict, the vote could fortify Morsi’s power.
Military officers guarded polling places, and there were few reports of violence. Egyptian state media reported nine injuries in clashes around the Nile Delta town of Dakahleya, and that unknown assailants threw Molotov cocktails near the headquarters of a liberal party that had been part of the opposition under Mubarak.
As they waited in line to vote, neighbors continued to spar over the contentious process that produced the charter. Some said that it had been unfairly steamrolled by Egypt’s new Islamist leaders over the objections of other parties and the Coptic Christian Church, and that as a result the new charter failed to protect fundamental rights.
Others blamed the Islamists’ opponents for refusing to negotiate, in an effort to undermine democracy because they could not win at the ballot box. Many expressed discontent with political leaders on both sides.
“Neither group can accept its opposition,” said Ahmed Ibrahim, 40, a government clerk waiting to vote in a middle-class neighborhood in the Nasr City area of Cairo. Whatever the outcome, he said, “one group in their hearts will feel wronged, and the other group will gloat over their victory, and so the wounds will remain.”
Many voters waiting in line Saturday said they rejected the exploitation of religion by both sides: the Islamists who sought to frame the debate as an argument about Islamic law, and opponents who accused Morsi of seeking a theocracy.
“It is not about these emotional issues,” said Talan Hassaballah, a businessman. He faulted its provisions on “social justice,” such as guarantees of human rights, workers’ rights and social services. “They are vague,” he said.