Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on track to win Egyptian presidential election 

An Egyptian supporter of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi

The former Egyptian army chief, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, was on course for a sweeping victory in the country’s presidential election on Wednesday, according to early provisional results.

Sisi’s campaign said their man had captured 93.4% with 2,000 polling stations counted, while judicial sources said he had 89% with 3,000 polling stations counted.

His only rival, veteran leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, was on 2.9% according to the Sisi campaign, while the judicial sources put Sabahi on 5%, with the rest of the ballots deemed void.

The partial results came 90 minutes after polls closed following three days of voting. Turnout was 44.4% of Egypt‘s 54 million voters, according to the judicial sources. That would be less than the 40 million votes, or 80% of the electorate, that Sisi had called for last week.

The lower than expected turnout figure raises questions about Sisi’s credibility as leader of the Arab World‘s most populous nation.

It would also suggest that he had failed to rally the overwhelming support he hoped for after toppling Egypt‘s first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, following street protests last year.

A tour of Cairo polling stations on Wednesday saw only a trickle of voters. The same pattern emerged in Egypt‘s second city, Alexandria, Reuters reporters said.

In a country polarised since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, 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.

Fireworks erupted in Cairo when Sisi’s results began to emerge. His supporters waved Egyptian flags and sounded car horns on the crowded streets of the capital.

The two-day vote was originally due to conclude on Tuesday but was extended until 9pm (1800 GMT) Wednesday to allow the “greatest number possible” to vote, state media reported.

The decision to extend Egypt‘s presidential runoff into a third day seriously harmed the credibility of the poll, one of the election’s main international observers claimed.

Democracy International, a US-based firm with 86 observers currently in Egypt, said the extension “raises more questions about the independence of the election commission, the impartiality of the government, and the integrity of Egypt‘s electoral process”.

It said it had withdrawn its short-term observers, though other international monitors, including the EU, said they would continue as normal.

Egypt‘s electoral commission cited a heatwave on Tuesday as the reason for extending the process, with millions said to have been put off voting by temperatures as high as 42C.

But a wave of panic among television hosts and businessmen partial to Sisi suggested the real reason was to try to avoid a disappointing turnout.

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