Sisi Poised to Win Egypt’s Election. With 92% of the Vote.
CAIRO — Early results from Egypt’s election showed President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi headed for a landslide victory with 92 percent of the vote, state media reported Thursday, an unsurprising margin in a race where he eliminated all serious opposition months ago.
Mr. Sisi’s token opponent, Moussa Moustapha Moussa, received just 3 percent of the vote, less than the number of spoiled ballots, state media said.
With his main rivals in jail or forced from the contest, Mr. Sisi relied on voter turnout to demonstrate his popularity. State media said that about 40 percent of voters cast ballots during the three days of voting that ended Wednesday, down from 47 percent in the 2014 election that formalized Mr. Sisi’s power.
State television said the preliminary results were based on counts in 24 of 27 governorates. It did not say what proportion of the vote had been tallied. Official results are expected on Monday.
Voters were subject to bribes, blandishments and threats in an effort to get them to the polls. Some said they had been promised bags of free groceries or payments of as little as $3 for casting their ballot. Others were lavished with promises of improved municipal services, or tempted with a chance to win a pilgrimage to Mecca.
On Wednesday, the election authority repeated a threat to impose a $28 fine on voters who failed to cast their ballot. Voting was extended by an hour on Wednesday after a sandstorm lashed Cairo, keeping some people from polls, officials said.
Coverage of those tactics in the international news media drew harsh criticism from the government and its supporters, who accused reporters of presenting a distorted picture of the election.
“So the foreign media chose darkness,” wrote Hany Assal, a columnist with the state-run Ahram newspaper. “It reported and searched for the negative and worked hard to emphasize it.”
The State Information Service warned foreign reporters of unspecified consequences for “unprofessional” coverage of the election.
Mr. Sisi’s Western allies have been largely silent through the campaign, offering little or no criticism even as journalists were being arrested and the military jailed a former army chief who tried to run against Mr. Sisi.
In a message posted to the United States embassy Twitter feed on Monday, the first day of the vote, the United States Chargé d’Affaires in Cairo, Thomas H. Goldberger, said: “As Americans we are very impressed by the enthusiasm and patriotism of Egyptian voters.”
Timothy E. Kaldas, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, said the statement sent the wrong message to Mr. Sisi.
“To put out an image like that, without any context of the repression that has marred and undermined the credibility of the vote, puts the U.S. government in a position of being complicit with the repression,” he said.
A spokesman for the Cairo embassy declined to comment.
A handful of American observers, invited to monitor the vote by Egyptian officials, praised the vote in enthusiastic social media postings that showed the observers dancing with voters or eating with Sisi supporters.
One of the observers, Samantha Nerove, is a military veteran who runs a nonprofit called America Matters. Two others, Andy Braner and Sasha Toperich, wrote an online article before the polls that concluded “We should give el-Sisi a chance.”
Mr. Sisi has jailed tens of thousands of opponents, mostly from the banned Muslim Brotherhood. But he needs a strong showing to anchor his legitimacy as he presses the fight against Islamic State militants in Sinai and presses tough economic reforms that are badly squeezing poor Egyptians.
Under Egyptian law, Mr. Sisi can serve only one more term and must leave office in 2022. He has denied speculation that he will amend the Constitution to extend or abolish those term limits.
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Mr. Sisi, then a general, came to power in 2013 after he led a military takeover that ousted the democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, after a mass uprising.
Mr. Morsi, who was sentenced to 20 years in connection with the killing of protesters in 2012 and is still on trial on espionage charges, remains imprisoned at the Tora maximum security prison, also known as Scorpion, south of Cairo.
His family says he is suffering from ill health and recently enlisted five British members of Parliament and lawyers to draw attention to his plight. The group requested permission from the Egyptian government to visit Mr. Morsi in prison to assess his conditions, it said Wednesday. They did not receive a reply.
Follow Declan Walsh on Twitter: @declanwalsh
Nour Youssef contributed reporting.