BEIRUT

Middle East

Sisi wins vote, faces economic challenges

A supporter of presidential hopeful Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt's former military chief, holds his poster and a national flag during a celebration at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, May 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

CAIRO: Former Egyptian army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi won a landslide victory in a presidential election Thursday but a low turnout threatened to deprive him of the strong mandate he needs to fix the economy and face down an Islamist insurgency.

Sisi won 93.3 percent of votes cast, judicial sources said, with most ballots counted after three days of voting. His only rival, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, gained 3 percent while 3.7 percent of votes were declared void.

But a lower-than-expected turnout raised questions about the credibility of a man idolized by his supporters as a hero who can deliver stability.

“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.

Turnout was about 46 percent of Egypt’s 54 million voters, the government said, less than the 40 million votes, or 80 percent of the electorate, that Sisi had called for last week.

It was also less than the 52 percent turnout secured in the 2012 presidential election by Mohammad Morsi, the Islamist Sisi ousted last year after mass protests against his rule.

Sabahi conceded defeat but rejected the official turnout figures as too high, calling them “an insult to the intelligence of Egyptians.”

Sisi enjoys the backing of the armed forces and the Interior Ministry, as well as businessmen who thrived under Mubarak and are still highly influential.

He also has the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, which see Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood as an existential threat. Gulf Arab states pumped billions of dollars into Egypt to keep the economy afloat.

“Egypt and Saudi Arabia can work together to face threats, either internally like the Muslim Brotherhood, or externally like Iran and its supporters in the area,” said Mohammed Zulfa, a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council, an appointed body that advises the government.

“I think the Saudis will do all they can to support Sisi now he has been elected as he was supported by the Egyptian people,” he added.

Diplomats said Saudi Arabia was committed to help Sisi overcome Egypt’s crisis by maintaining financial aid to help him shore up an economy shunned by tourists and investors.

Sisi also faces the formidable task of crushing an Islamist armed insurgency and eliminating any threat from the Brotherhood, which, as the country’s best-organized political force, had won every national vote held after Mubarak’s fall.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on May 30, 2014, on page 1.

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Summary

Sisi won 93.3 percent of votes cast, judicial sources said, with most ballots counted after three days of voting.

Turnout was about 46 percent of Egypt's 54 million voters, the government said, less than the 40 million votes, or 80 percent of the electorate, that Sisi had called for last week.

It was also less than the 52 percent turnout secured in the 2012 presidential election by Mohammad Morsi, the Islamist Sisi ousted last year after mass protests against his rule.

Sisi also faces the formidable task of crushing an Islamist armed insurgency and eliminating any threat from the Brotherhood, which, as the country's best-organized political force, had won every national vote held after Mubarak's fall.


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