Egypt's Islamists tighten grip on power

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CAIRO - Egypt's Islamist-backed constitution received a "yes" majority in a final round of voting on a referendum that saw a low voter turnout, but the deep divisions it has opened up threaten to fuel continued turmoil.

Passage is a victory for Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, but a costly one. The bruising battle over the past month stripped away hope that the long-awaited constitution would bring a national consensus on the path Egypt will take after shedding its autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

Instead, Morsi disillusioned many non-Islamists who had once backed him and has become more reliant on his core support in the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. Hard-liners in his camp are determined to implement provisions for stricter rule by Islamic law in the charter, which is likely to further fuel divisions.

Saturday's voting in 17 of Egypt's 27 provinces was the second and final round of the referendum. Preliminary results released early Sunday by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood showed that 71.4 percent of those who voted Saturday said "yes" after 95.5 percent of the ballots were counted. Only about eight million of the 25 million Egyptians eligible to vote - a turnout of about 30 percent - cast their ballots. The Brotherhood has accurately predicted election results in the past by tallying results provided by its representatives at polling centers.

In the first round of voting, about 56 percent said "yes" to the charter. The turnout then was about 32 percent.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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