Reuters, Cairo : Egypt’s new constitution was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum, state media reported on Thursday, an expected victory that nudges army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ever closer to a bid for the presidency. The vote advances a transition plan the army unveiled after deposing Islamist president Mohamed Mursi last July. The next step is expected to be a presidential election for which Sisi, 59, appears the only serious candidate. Some 90 percent of the people who voted approved the constitution, state-run media reported. Al-Ahram, the state’s flagship newspaper, said the constitution was approved by an “unprecedented majority”, citing early results. The constitution won wide support among the many Egyptians who backed the army’s removal of Mursi. There was little trace of a “no” campaign as the state pressed a crackdown on dissent. Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood had called for a boycott, seeing the vote as part of a coup that deposed a leader freely elected 18 months ago and revived an oppressive police state. An Interior Ministry official said turnout appeared to be more than 55 percent. It was the first vote held since Mursi was overthrown following the June 30 mass protests against his rule. A decree is expected within days setting the date for presidential and parliamentary elections, Al-Ahram reported. The official result is expected to be announced on Saturday. The Islamists’ opponents pointed to the result as proof of a popular mandate for the removal of Mursi. “The Egyptians write the Brotherhood’s death certificate,” Al-Youm Al-Sabea, a privately owned newspaper, declared on its front page. The Brotherhood had called for protests during the voting. Nine people were killed on the first day of voting in clashes between its supporters and security forces. The Interior Ministry said 444 people were arrested during the two-day vote. The authorities, who have billed the transition plan as a path to democracy, have also jailed moderate Islamists and secular-minded activists in recent weeks, including prominent figures in the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak. The referendum has been seen as a public vote of confidence in Sisi, widely viewed as the most powerful figure in Egypt and the man needed to restore stability. Sisi appeared to link a possible presidential bid to the outcome of the vote, saying on Saturday he would need the support of the nation and the army to run. The stock market has rallied to three-year highs this week, driven partly by hopes for more stable government.