Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved changes in the constitution, opening the way for parliamentary and presidential elections within months, according to final results from a landmark referendum announced today. The elections commission chief said 41% of 45 million eligible voters cast ballots in yesterday's referendum; more than 14 million, or 77.2%, voted in favor, with around 4 million, or 22.8%, opposed. Opponents fear the swift timetable could boost members of the former ruling party and the Muslim Brotherhood, which had campaigned heavily for a "yes" vote in the referendum.
Critics say that since it and the former ruling party are the best organized political forces in the country, they stand to gain the most in an early election—which will bring in Egypt's first democratically elected government to replace the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak. The results are likely to open a frenzied campaign season, with liberal pro-democracy forces scrambling to put together political parties to contest the upcoming races.