Egypt's Islamists in slim poll victory
President Mohamed Morsi now seems assured of pushing through Egypt's new, distinctly Islamist constitution - but by a margin slim enough to embolden his opponents in next year's parliamentary election.
That could be good news for Egypt's nascent democracy and its battered economy if it encourages political rivals to fight their battles at the ballot box rather than in the streets, where clashes have alarmed both investors and tourists.
Yet Mr Morsi will have little respite as he braces for the unenviable task of winning public support for urgent economic policies to rein in a crushing budget deficit that are bound to be unpopular in a nation deeply divided by his actions.
"The results of the referendum do not put an end to this state of polarisation in Egyptian politics," said Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University.
The Muslim Brotherhood's party, which propelled Mr Morsi to power in a June election, said its unofficial tally for yesterday's first-round vote on a controversial constitution showed 57 per cent of voters backed it, supporting liberal opposition arguments that many felt the document too partisan.
A second round of the vote now looks likely to go the same way on Saturday, as it will be held in districts with more Islamist sympathisers. But even if another, possibly bigger Yes vote pushes the constitution through, the poll on a national charter
has underlined the political divisions that Egypt faces.
"This puts major hurdles before president Morsi because the economic measures he planned to introduce ... require a national consensus," said Mr Sayyid, arguing that the Islamists, who have dominated other ballots this year and last, were losing ground.
Mr Morsi's first attempt to implement tax increases, about a week before the vote, lasted only a few hours before he withdrew them amid howls of public anger, which his opponents exploited.
His prime minister has promised a "national dialogue" to explain the government's determination to protect the poor, but Mr Morsi cannot wait long as the measures are seen as essential to securing a vital $4.8-billion International Monetary Fund loan; it
was delayed by a month immediately after his policy U-turn.
Leftists, socialists, Christians and liberal-minded Muslims, freshly united in opposition to Mr Morsi's decree to expand his powers in order to push through the Islamist-tinged constitution, have capitalised on public anger over the economy.
After liberals split their voter base in previous elections, the Brotherhood's party may still be counting on the opposition fracturing before the next parliamentary election, due a couple of months or so after the constitution is approved.
"If the secular forces fail to be united, this will in the end lead to a greater gain for the Freedom and Justice Party," the deputy leader of the Brotherhood's political party, Essam el-Erian, told Reuters. He also dismissed evidence of divisions in society as something present "all over the world".
But Islamists may find criticism starting to stick. Some Egyptians who voted Yes were not Islamist loyalists but instead were simply weary after two exhausting years of turmoil since military-backed strongman Hosni Mubarak was overthrown.