Leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi conceded defeat in Egypt’s presidential election on Thursday, after preliminary results gave former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi more than 93% of the vote.
“I accept my defeat and respect the people’s choice” in the three-day election that ended on Wednesday, Sabahi told a news conference in Cairo.
The official voter turnout figures were an “insult to Egyptians’ intelligence,” he said.
Sabahi vowed to continue the “fight against tyranny and corruption,” and pledged not to reconcile with “terrorism,” in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is blacklisted by the state as a terrorist group.
Judicial sources said Thursday that Sisi won 93.3% of votes cast with most ballots counted. Sabahi gained 3%, while 3.7% of votes were declared void, Reuters reported.
All results announced by campaigns or judges supervising polling centers are still considered unofficial, and must be verified and announced by the Presidential Elections Commission.
Egypt’s interim President Adly Mansour said turnout had reached 46%, the Associated Press reported.
The vote showed “broad consensus for the roadmap” announced after the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July, Mansour added.
However, a lower-than-expected turnout has raised questions about the credibility of Sisi, idolized by his supporters as a hero who can deliver stability.
Critics said the lack of enthusiasm at the polls was in part due to apathy among even Sisi supporters, knowing that his victory was a foregone conclusion.
Others said it shows discontent with him, not just among his Islamist foes but also among a broader section of the public that believes he has no concrete plans for Egypt’s woes and fears he will return the country to the autocratic ways of Hosni Mubarak.
The tepid turnout was particularly embarrassing because the government and media had been whipping up adulation for Sisi over the past 10 months, depicting him as a warrior against terrorism and the only person able to tackle Egypt’s economic problems, high unemployment, inflation and instability.
Sisi’s supporters in the Egyptian media had been in a panic the past two days. Political talk show hosts and newscasters urged people to vote, warning that otherwise the Brotherhood would be encouraged to step up its challenge to the new government.
By not voting, Egyptians might as well “go directly to the prison and return Mohammed Mursi to power,” said prominent TV talk show host Amr Adeeb.
The decision by the election commission to add another day of voting Wednesday raised complaints that authorities were tipping the playing field in Sisi’s favor.
The stakes are high for him in a country where street protests have helped topple two presidents in three years.
Since a series of TV interviews he gave ahead of the vote, many Egyptians feel Sisi has not spelled out a clear vision of how he would tackle the country’s problems, instead making a general call for people to work hard and be patient.
He has presented vague plans to remedy the economy, which suffers from corruption, high unemployment, and a widening budget deficit aggravated by fuel subsidies that could cost nearly $19 billion in the next fiscal year.
“All in all, the weak turnout will make it harder for Sisi to impose painful economic reforms that international institutions and investors are demanding,” said Anna Boyd, an analyst at London-based IHS Jane’s.
Investors want Sisi to end energy subsidies, impose a clear tax regime, and give guidance on the direction of the exchange rate.
[With Reuters]SHOW MORE