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Egypt's Sissi Crushes at Polls, Turnout Questioned

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Egyptian officials say preliminary results give former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi a sweeping victory in his presidential bid against Hamdeen Sabahi. But, the vote has raised many questions about a Sissi presidency.

Small crowds Thursday celebrated the early results of Egypt’s presidential election, which give former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi a crushing lead over his sole competitor.

Given a crackdown on opposition forces, few questioned an early tally showing Sissi with more than 90 percent of the vote.

How many people voted is another matter. Initial turnout was so low the government added an extra day of voting and threatened non-voters with fines. Officials said participation jumped Wednesday, although many polls that third day were empty.

Despite cries of foul play, and little independent monitoring of the vote count, Sissi supporters came to his defense.

“Thank God these elections were legitimate," said Cairo voter Mohamed Mahmoud. "No oil or sugar were given out. No money was given out. No forging of the ballots occurred. These elections are legitimate.”

Sissi had gained support from many weary of three years of post-revolution upheaval. Among those yearning for some sense of calm are many of Egypt’s minority Christians, who had feared the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sissi helped depose its member, President Mohammed Morsi, last year.

“We always pray for that. The church always prays for the security and the stability of the country,” said Sister Myriam, a Roman Catholic nun.

But Sissi has not only his political nemesis, the Brotherhood, to worry about.

Egypt’s economy is in tatters. Patience is wearing thin. And harder times with potential subsidy cuts loom. Even supporters voice concern about the future.

“This difficult phase is Sissi's phase," said Cairo resident, Mohshen Atteya. "It is a building-Egypt phase. A social justice phase. A phase where we have to look at the poor and misfortunate of Egypt, the people who live in graveyards. Sissi has to care for the impoverished of Egypt."

But with new doubts about the breadth of Sissi’s support, and a possible backlash about the vote count, Egypt’s next president may face great challenges in rallying Egyptians for the sacrifices he says lie ahead.

Final results are expected early next week.

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