Egypt's Sisi set for landslide win in presidential vote
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Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who toppled former president Mohammed Morsi last year, has swept to victory in Egypt's presidential election, results showed Thursday, joining a long line of Egyptian leaders drawn from the military.
With nearly all ballots counted, former military chief Sisi appeared set for a crushing victory amid lingering doubts about the government’s turnout figures.
The retired field marshal won more than 92 percent of the vote, compared with 2.9 percent for his sole opponent and 4 percent in invalid votes, according to a tally released by his campaign.
A Sisi victory was never in doubt, but the career infantry officer had pushed for an overwhelming turnout to bestow legitimacy on his successful move last July to oust moderate Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, following weeks of protest against Morsi's rule.
Turnout was estimated at more than 46 percent after officials extended voting to a third day, according to interim President Adly Mansour.
That figure was lower than the 52 percent turnout in the 2012 presidential election that vaulted Morsi to power. It was also lower than the bar Sisi himself set in his last campaign interview, when he said that he wanted three-quarters of the country’s 54 million registered voters to cast ballots so he could “show the world” the strength of his popular support.
Even so, Sisi can genuinely claim he comes into office with an impressive vote tally of 23.38 million votes – significantly more than the 13 million won by Morsi two years ago.
His sole opponent, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, received 736,000 votes. It was telling that Sabahi, who came in third in the previous election, garnered less than the 1.03 million invalidated ballots cast.
Sabahi conceded defeat on Thursday but said there were serious violations in the vote, saying turnout figures announced by the government are not credible, adding that the numbers were “an insult to the intelligence of Egyptians”.
Official election commission figures will likely be released next week but are not expected to have much of an effect due to the wide gap in results.
Sabahi's campaign pulled its representatives from polling stations Wednesday to protest against what it called intimidation and arrests of its staffers, one of whom was referred to a military tribunal.
“I respect the choice of the people and acknowledge my defeat in this election,” he said. “We have lost an election but we won our self-respect ... I hope that we won credibility with the aware and intelligent masses.”
Mario David, the head of the European Union observers’ mission, said the election, which ended on Wednesday, was carried out in accordance with legal standards and saw only minor violations like campaigning near polling centres.
However, a senior member of the EU mission, Robert Goebbels, pointed out that the relatively high turnout should not be taken as evidence of democracy. Boycotting a vote, he said, is a form of freedom of expression and one should not forget these “silent” voters.
Islamists, once the country’s most powerful political machine in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, had called for a boycott of the vote, as had many secular “revolutionary” youth groups.
Widespread reports of empty polling stations in the first two days of voting prompted the state to abruptly add a third day after declaring the second day to be a public holiday to free voters to cast ballots.
“High turnout is not necessarily proof of democratic elections,” he said, adding that turnout in totalitarian states like North Korea in which there is only a single candidate has run as high as 99.9 percent.
The unusual measures taken by the government to get voters to the polls also raised scepticism over the real extent of Sisi's support. Government officials offered to bus voters to polling centres and threatened to invoke a rarely enforced law that would allow them to fine boycotters. Bus and train transport was free to allow people to return to home districts and cast ballots.
Critics said the lack of enthusiasm at the polls was in part due to apathy among even Sisi supporters, knowing that his victory was a foregone conclusion.
“Citizen enthusiasm was dampened by the widespread perception that this election was not meaningful and that its results were predetermined,” US-based Democracy International said Thursday.
Others said it showed persistent discontent with Sisi, not just among his Islamist foes but also among a broader section of the public that believes he has no concrete plans for Egypt’s entrenched woes and fears he will return Egypt to the autocratic ways of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.
The government and media had been whipping up adulation for Sisi over the past 10 months, depicting him as a warrior against terrorism and the only person able to tackle Egypt’s economic problems, high unemployment, inflation and instability.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)