Abdel Fattah Sisi overwhelmingly won Egypt’s presidential election, gaining 96.9% of the vote last week over lone challenger Hamdeen Sabahi, the chief of the Presidential Elections Commission announced Tuesday.
The official results came as no surprise after initial independent estimates announced Thursday by Egyptian media indicated a landslide victory for the former field marshal and defense minister.
According to the commission, only 47.4% of eligible voters turned out, despite the panel's decision to extend the two-day election to a third day in hopes of improving turnout. An estimated 1 million people voided their ballots, apparently unhappy with either choice.
Anwar Asi, the election commission chief, attributed the extension decision solely to "the strong wave of hot weather" that the panel saw as hindering voters from going to polling stations.
The poll was boycotted by Islamist supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi, whose ouster last July was orchestrated by Sisi. Some liberal groups angered by the current crackdown against political dissent also took part in the boycott.
The U.S.-based observer group Democracy International criticized the commission's last-minute decision to extend the vote, saying that it raises questions about the integrity of the election. The European Union’s observers praised the balloting but acknowledged that the poll was held "in an environment falling short of constitutional principles."
Sisi had initially said after Morsi’s ouster that he had neither the will nor the desire to be president, before reversing course and quitting the military to run.
In his first reaction to official results, he thanked Sabahi for "offering a serious opportunity for electoral competition."
"Dear sons of Egypt, I address you with the highest states of thankfulness and appreciation for the honorable democratic model you have shown," Sisi said in a speech televised on state and private television channels moments after the commission’s announcement.
Sisi told Egyptians that now was the time to work for a "better tomorrow." He is expected to be sworn in next week.
Hassan is a special correspondent.