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Saturday 18 August 2018

Egypt’s president wins second term in election with no serious opponent

Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi took 97% of the vote in a duel with a candidate who supported the incumbent.

A supporter of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi holds a poster with his photo after the election commission announced the presidential election results (Nariman El Mofty/AP)
A supporter of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi holds a poster with his photo after the election commission announced the presidential election results (Nariman El Mofty/AP)

By Hamza Hendawi

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has won a second, four-year term in office, with more than 97% of the vote in last week’s election, according to official results announced on Monday by the election commission, which put turnout at 41.05%.

Mr El-Sissi faced no serious challenger in the March 26-28 vote, after a string of potentially strong candidates withdrew under pressure or were arrested.

His sole opponent, little-known politician Moussa Mustafa Moussa, was a supporter of the president who made no effort to challenge him.

Mr Moussa, won less than 3% of the vote, and far less than the 1.76 million invalid ballots cast.

Egypt is large enough for all Egyptians, so long as our differences of opinion do not adversely affect the nation Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi

In a televised address, Mr el-Sissi thanked voters and promised to work for all Egyptians, saying “those who renewed their trust in me and gave me their votes are no different from those who did otherwise”.

“Egypt is large enough for all Egyptians, so long as our differences of opinion do not adversely affect the nation,” said Mr el-Sissi, who has often insisted that the country’s stability must come before the expansion of political freedoms.

Mentioning Mr Moussa by name for the first time since the French-educated politician joined the race in January, Mr el-Sissi thanked him for the “patriotic, honourable and civilised competition” he and his campaign had shown.

Mr Moussa had earlier congratulated Mr el-Sissi and defended his decision to enter the race at the last minute, which critics had suggested was aimed at sparing the government the embarrassment of a one-candidate race.

“I only had Egypt in mind,” Mr Moussa said.

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Supporters of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi wave a national flag (Amr Nabil/AP)

“Those who criticised me had ulterior motives against the country.

“They wanted it to be a referendum, but I turned it into a free and open election.”

The vote’s result and the absence of any meaningful competition between the two candidates harkened back to the yes-or-no referendums held by Egypt’s autocratic leaders in the decades before the 2011 uprising raised hopes of democratic change.

Mr El-Sissi led the 2013 military overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected leader, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, whose divisive rule had sparked mass protests.

Mr El-Sissi has since overseen a sweeping crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of Islamists and several prominent secular activists, and rolling back most of the freedoms won in the 2011 uprising.

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Less than two dozen supporters of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi celebrate in Mustafa Mahmoud Square (Amr Nabil/AP)

Mr El-Sissi has enacted ambitious economic reforms, including subsidy cuts and the flotation of the local currency, that have won international praise but exacted a heavy toll on ordinary Egyptians.

Egypt has meanwhile struggled to contain an insurgency based in the northern Sinai that gained strength after Mr Morsi’s overthrow and is now led by the Islamic State group.

Thousands of supporters took to the streets in Cairo and other cities soon after the results were announced to celebrate Mr el-Sissi’s victory, waving flags and dancing to patriotic songs.

Hundreds were in Cairo’s Tahrir square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising, shortly before nightfall.

With the outcome of the election a foregone conclusion, authorities went to great lengths to boost turnout, using their vast resources to get voters out and threatening on the third and final day of the election to fine anyone boycotting the vote.

“The election was an epic of love dedicated to Egypt,” said Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of the election commission, who announced the official results.

“It was an epic that embodied the struggle of the people for justice, dignity and democracy.”

Addressing voters, Mr Ibrahim said: “You proved your love for Egypt and that you were and still are behind your country. Your participation was not in response to either promises or threats, but rather motived only by your love for Egypt.”

He also congratulated Mr el-Sissi, saying “we pray for God’s support for you in ruling Egypt.”

Press Association

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