Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi won election as Egypt’s president by a crushing majority without allaying concerns about the strength of the former army chief’s mandate, as turnout declined and observers queried the voting procedures.
El-Sisi, who toppled Mohamed Mursi almost a year ago, won 93 percent of votes, according to unofficial figures from his campaign, compared with 2.9 percent for former lawmaker Hamdeen Sabahi, the only other candidate. Officials said the turnout was about 46 percent after voting was extended for a third day to boost it. Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, the target of a bloody crackdown since the army takeover, boycotted an election it described as a sham.
El-Sisi campaigned on promises to end the polarization and often violent unrest that have plagued Egypt since 2011, and to revive an economy growing at its slowest pace in two decades. He was seeking a broad mandate to make those tasks easier by showing the country is united behind him.
“The election results show that this is not the case,” Anthony Skinner, director for Middle East and North Africa at the U.K.-based risk analysis company Maplecroft, said by phone. “Egypt remains incredibly politically polarized.”
U.S.-based Democracy International, which sent observers to monitor the election, said voter enthusiasm was “dampened by the widespread perception that this election was not meaningful and that its results were predetermined.” Sabahi, the losing candidate, said there was bias on the part of state institutions and media.
‘Build Our Lives’
Egypt’s authorities have presented the election as a step toward democracy. Investors have been betting that El-Sisi may be able to turn the economy around.
The benchmark stock index has rallied more than 60 percent since Mursi’s ouster in July, though it pared gains this week, posting a 5.6 percent drop. The yields on Egypt’s dollar bonds maturing in 2020 fell to 4.92 percent yesterday, the lowest since before the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Key to El-Sisi’s success will be his ability to restore security and lure back investment.
“I just want to feel safe, and Sisi is the one who can make that happen,” Shaimaa Islam, a 35-year-old mother of four, said as she bought groceries after polls closed. “We’re tired of the violence and the problems. We just want to build our lives again.”
Mursi, who was elected in June 2012 on a turnout of 52 percent, failed to ease political tensions or reverse economic decline, fueling protests throughout his one-year rule.
Skinner said El-Sisi will enjoy advantages over his predecessor, including the full support of Egypt’s powerful state institutions and the financial backing of oil-rich Gulf nations such as Saudi Arabia. That doesn’t make him invulnerable to a similar unrest.
“There’s a risk of growing social frustrations, as socio-economic conditions do not improve at the pace that the majority of Egyptians wants, he said. ‘‘There’s this underlying fragility that will continue to affect Egypt.”
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