Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former general who toppled Egypt’s first freely elected leader, is on course for a sweeping victory in the country’s presidential election, early provisional results suggested.
But a lower-than-expected turnout figure has raised questions about the credibility of a man idolised by his supporters as a hero who can deliver political and economic stability.
Sisi won 93.3 percent of votes cast, government sources said on Thursday, with most ballots counted after three days of voting. Hamdeen Sabahi, the only other candidate, gained 3 percent while 3.7 percent of votes were declared void.
Voter turnout was low, at 44.4 percent, despite the government declaring the second day of voting a national holiday, and extending the election for a third day.
The turnout was also lower than the election that brought Mohamed Morsi to power, who lasted a year in the presidency before being removed by Sisi and the military.
Fireworks were set off in Cairo when results began to emerge. Sisi’s supporters waved Egyptian flags and sounded car horns on the crowded streets of the capital.
About 1,000 people gathered in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of a popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and raised hopes of a democracy free of influence from the military.
“We are joyful because Sisi got so many votes, the results will come after an hour, we are here to celebrate,” Kawther Mohamed, who went to Tahrir with her daughters, told the Reuters news agency.
Sisi had hoped for a strong turnout to legitimise the takeover he led last summer against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many Egyptians said voters had stayed at home due to political apathy, opposition to another military man becoming
president, discontent at suppression of freedoms among liberal youth, and calls for a boycott by Islamists.
“These elections were just an act, a farce,” said Mahmoud Ibrahim, 25, a resident of the sprawling Imbaba district who did not vote. “Turnout was low, but the media will lie to the people, all for the sake of the one man.”
The decision by the election commission to add another day of voting raised complaints that authorities were manipulating the vote in Sisi’s favour.
Sabahi said the extension aimed to “distort” the will of the people. His campaign pulled its representatives from polling stations on Wednesday in protest against what it called a campaign of intimidation and arrests of its campaign workers.
The Brotherhood, which called for a boycott of the election, hailed the low turnout.
“The great Egyptian people have … written the death certificate of the military coup,” said its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.
The Brotherhood has been designated a “terrorist” organisation by the military installed interim government.
All of the movement’s main leaders are now in jail or exile, and Morsi is being tried on charges that could carry the death penalty.
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(via Al Jazeera)