With nearly all ballots counted, Egypt's former military chief has won a crushing victory over his sole opponent in the country's presidential election, his campaign said yesterday.
But the results were stained by questions about turnout despite a robust government effort to get out the vote.
Retired field marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi won more than 92 per cent of the votes, compared with 2.9 per cent for his sole opponent and 4 per cent of invalid votes, according to a tally released by his campaign.
His victory was never in doubt, but the career infantry officer had pushed for an overwhelming turnout as well to bestow legitimacy on his ousting last July of Egypt's first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Mursi.
Turnout was more than 46 per cent after officials extended voting to a third day, according to interim President Adly Mansour.
That figure was lower than the 52 per cent turnout in the 2012 presidential election that vaulted Mursi to power. It also was lower than the bar Sisi himself set in his last campaign interview, when he said he wanted three-quarters of the country's 54 million registered voters to cast ballots so he could "show the world" his support. Still, Sisi can genuinely claim he comes into office with an impressive vote tally of 23.38 million votes - significantly more than the 13 million won by Mursi two years ago.
His sole opponent, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, received 736,000 votes.
It was telling that Sabahi, who came in third in the previous election, garnered less than the 1.03 million spoiled ballots cast.
Official election commission figures will likely be released next week but are not expected to change much due to the wide gap in results.
Addressing a news conference yesterday, Sabahi accepted defeat.
But he said the turnout figure was not credible, adding: "It is an insult to the intelligence of Egyptians." Earlier, when voting was extended to a third day, he protested that it aimed to "distort" the people's will.
He said serious violations marred the balloting itself - though not enough to significantly change the outcome. His campaign pulled its representatives from polling stations on Wednesday to protest what it called intimidation and arrests of its staffers, one of whom was referred to a military tribunal.
"I respect the choice of the people and acknowledge my defeat in this election," he said. "We have lost an election but we won our self-respect. ... I hope that we won credibility with the aware and intelligent masses."
Mario David, the head of the European Union observers' mission, said the election that ended Wednesday was carried out within the boundaries of the law, with only minor violations like campaigning near polling centres.
Reports of empty polling stations in the first two days of voting prompted the state to abruptly add a third day after declaring the second day to be public holiday to free voters to cast ballots had made little difference.