There was optimism for Egypt's future on the streets of the capital Cairo on Thursday (January 16) after the initial results of a referendum showed an overwhelming approval for a new constitution.

About 90 percent of voters approved the constitution, the state news agency and a government official said.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which is sure to dispute the official numbers, had called for a boycott of the two-day vote, seeing it as part of a coup against a leader freely elected 18 months ago. It had called for anti-government protests.

An Interior Ministry official said turnout so far may have exceeded 55 percent, though state news agency MENA did not give a figure.

The referendum has been seen as a public vote of confidence in army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the 59-year-old widely seen as the most powerful figure in Egypt since he removed Morsi and won massive popularity among the Egyptians who staged mass protests against Brotherhood rule in June.

Sisi's supporters see him as the kind of strong man needed to restore stability to a country in political and economic crisis for nearly three years. The stock market has rallied to three-year highs this week.

The draft constitution deletes Islamic language written into the basic law approved a year ago when Morsi was still in office. It also strengthens the state bodies that defied him: the army, the police and the judiciary.

Analysts say the government is anxious for a result that outstrips votes won by the Brotherhood in the last three years: 10.7 million people voted for the Islamist-tinged constitution approved when Morsi was still president, and Morsi won the presidency with 13.2 million votes in 2012.

Presented by Adam Justice