By Agence France-Presse
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi swept to a second term with 97 percent of valid votes, official results showed Monday, dominating an election last week that saw him face no serious rivals.
The head of the election authority Lasheen Ibrahim said at a press conference that turnout was 41.05 percent of the almost 60 million registered voters, down from the 2014 vote that saw Sisi claim the presidency.
Ibrahim said 92.73 percent of the votes were valid from the roughly 24 million cast, while almost two million ballots were spoiled.
Sisi’s sole rival and an erstwhile supporter, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, won 2.92 percent of the valid votes, Ibrahim said.
Moussa entered the election at the very last moment after first leading a re-election campaign for Sisi, saving the vote from having just one candidate.
Sisi’s serious contenders either withdrew, were sidelined or were detained.
In a brief victory speech broadcast Monday evening on state television, Sisi sent “greetings, appreciation, and respect” to Egyptians.
He promised “to continue my oath to be loyal in my work, not sparing any effort in order to advance our nation.”
Sisi directed “thanks and appreciation to Moussa Mostafa Moussa who lead an honest and civilised competition.”
As for Moussa, he said at a press conference that “the most important thing is that Egypt has won.”
Hundreds of supporters took to the streets in Cairo and other cities, waving the Egyptian flag and singing patriotic songs to celebrate Sisi winning another four years in power.
US President Donald Trump “congratulated” Sisi on his victory in a telephone call, the White House said in a statement that did not mention any worries over the fairness of the vote.
“The two leaders affirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and noted that they look forward to advancing this partnership and addressing common challenges,” it said.
Earlier the State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US “will continue to work to advance our shared objectives” with Egypt, despite its concerns over political freedom.
But Nauert added: “We have noted reports of constraints on freedoms of expression and association in the run-up to the elections.”
Four Egyptian rights groups, including the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, denounced the electoral process in a statement late on Monday.
The election commission “lost its political legitimacy by watching the electoral process as it transformed into a debacle beleaguered by the worst political and security thuggery ever witnessed in an Egyptian election since 1952,” they said.
Sisi, who as army chief ousted Egypt’s first freely elected president Islamist Mohamed Morsi after mass street protests in 2013, won his first term in 2014 with 96.9 percent of valid votes.
Turnout of 47 percent in that year’s election was sharply higher than this year’s 41 percent despite official appeals for voters to fulfil their patriotic duty.
Election chief Ibrahim was effusive about the vote regardless of the perceived lack of competition and the low attendance.
“These are momentous moments for this nation…which will be written in letters of light, under the title: battle for the love of Egypt,” Ibrahim said as he announced the results.
“The entire world heard your chants for the love of Egypt.”
People who boycotted the election and cannot show a good reason for missing the vote could face a fine of up to 500 Egyptian pounds (22 euros), the electoral commission has warned.
Opposition groups had called for a boycott of last week’s vote which they labelled a facade.
There were no presidential debates and Sisi himself did not appear at any official campaign events, although he spoke at a number of ceremonies.
In an interview days ahead of the vote, Sisi said he wished there were more candidates, denying any role in sidelining his rivals.
Morsi’s removal in 2013 ushered in a deadly crackdown that killed and jailed hundreds of Islamists.
The initial crackdown on the ousted leader’s supporters expanded to include liberal and leftist secular activists
A jihadist insurgency since has killed hundreds of policemen and civilians.
In February Sisi ordered the armed forces launched their most comprehensive campaign yet to end the five-year-old jihadist insurgency.
In the wake of his election success, the Egyptian armed forces congratulated Sisi in a statement, “affirming that it will always stand behind its wise leadership.”
Sisi has embarked on tough economic reforms that have been welcomed by foreign investors but dented his standing at home, even though his popularity remains high.
Enjoying near-unanimous media support, Sisi is seen by many Egytians as the right man to lead the country after years of political, security and economic turmoil that followed the ouster of leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.