Cairo - Nationwide turnout in Egypt's referendum on constitutional amendments on Monday stood between 23 and 27 percent, according to early estimates, Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi said.

"According to the higher electoral commission's estimates, we are looking at a turnout of between 23 and 27 percent," Fiqi said at a press conference shortly after polling closed at 7pm.

Observers and opposition movements, however, had said earlier that turnout was unlikely to surpass five percent.

Spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's opposition parties boycotted the referendum, charging that the amendments are a major setback for democracy and pluralism.

The independent Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights estimated the turnout at two to three percent at 2pm. The Brotherhood's estimates were similar.

The last referendum to take place in Egypt was in May 2005 when President Hosni Mubarak proposed a constitutional amendment that paved the way for the country's first pluralist presidential election.

Turnout was put officially at 53 percent but experts and observers said it barely exceeded three percent. - Sapa-AFP