Thursday, 29 May 2014

Egypt's former Military leader, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi finally announced winner of poll

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Reuters -Supporters of Egypt's former Defence Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ...
 With nearly all votes counted, Egypt's former military chief has won a crushing victory over his sole opponent with more than 92% of the votes, according to results announced by his campaign early on Thursday.

The campaign of retired field marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said he won 23.38 million votes, with left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabahi taking 735 285. Invalid votes were 1.07 million, or nearly 350 000 more than the number of votes for the 59-year-old Sabahi.

Al-Sisi's win was never in doubt, but the career infantry officer, also 59, had hoped for a strong turnout to bestow legitimacy on his ouster last July of Egypt's first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi.

However, al-Sisi's campaign said turnout nationwide was around 44%, even after voting was extended for a third day on Wednesday — well below the nearly 52% won by Morsi in June 2012.

In his final campaign TV interview last week, al-Sisi set the bar even higher, saying he wanted more than 40 million voters — there are nearly 54 million registered voters — to cast ballots to "show the world" the extent of his popular backing.

Al-Sisi supporters held all-night celebrations in Cairo, with several thousands gathered at the central Tahrir square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. They waved Egyptian flags, al-Sisi posters and danced.

Lack of enthusiasm

There were similar celebrations in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and a string of other cities north of the capital and in the Oasis province of Fayoum southwest of Cairo.

Critics said the lack of enthusiasm at the polls was in part due to apathy among even al-Sisi supporters, knowing that his victory was a foregone conclusion. Others said it showed discontent with al-Sisi, 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 Egypt to the autocratic ways of Hosni Mubarak.

The tepid turnout was particularly embarrassing because the government and media had been whipping up adulation for al-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.

Al-Sisi's supporters in the Egyptian media have been in a panic the past two days. Political talk show hosts and newscasters urged people to vote, warning that otherwise the Brotherhood will be encouraged to step up its challenge to the new government.

Prominent TV talk show host Amr Adeeb angrily said that by not voting, Egyptians might as well "go directly to the prison and return Mohammed Morsi to power".

"Tell him, 'Your Excellency, president Mohammed Morsi, please come out and rule us,'" he said.

Egypt’s electoral process

The abrupt decision by the election commission to add another day of voting on Wednesday raised complaints that authorities were tipping the playing field in al-Sisi's favour.

US-based Democracy International, which had been observing the vote, said the extension "raises more questions about the independence of the election commission, the impartiality of the government, and the integrity of Egypt's electoral process".

It said its observer teams outside of Cairo had ended their mission as scheduled on Tuesday. Some other international monitoring teams also left the country, since they had only planned for two days of voting, though EU monitors stayed on.

Sabahi, al-Sisi's only opponent in the race, protested the extension, saying it aimed to "distort" the will of the people. His campaign pulled its representatives from polling stations on Wednesday in protest against what it called a campaign of intimidation and arrests of its campaign workers. He, however, refused to bow to pressure from his camp to withdraw in protest, arguing that staying in the race qualifies him to "fight future battles."

Sabahi's spokesperson, Hossam Moenis, told ONTV network that a member of the campaign has been referred to a military tribunal.

Channel for democracy

"We are digging a channel for democracy ... in the face of an undemocratic project," he said. "The same mentality that we thought we managed to topple on Jan. 25, is back and ruling," — a reference to the start of the 18-day, anti-Mubarak uprising in 2011.

Only a handful of voters, or none at all, were at polling centres in multiple districts toured by Associated Press reporters Wednesday. At some, music played and kids painted Egyptian flags or al-Sisi's name on their faces as the occasional voter drifted in. TV images beamed from more than a dozen locations across Egypt showed similar scenes.

"People are lazy, depressed or frustrated. They knew what the result will be even before the vote," said Amani Fikry, a manager in a privately-owned company. "They are exhausted from three years of constant troubles."

In Cairo's Sayeda Zeinab district, loudspeakers played patriotic songs at an empty polling centre. Two al-Sisi backers scribbled words of support on posters of the candidate that had been defaced with insulting graffiti.

"Sissi doesn't need a program," said one, Mohammed Hussein. "We just want security."

Morsi's Brotherhood supporters and other Islamists boycotted the vote and scattered protests by Morsi supporters were quickly dispersed by security forces.

In Fayoum, the province southwest of Cairo, riot police fired tear gas after protesters hurled stones and fire cracks while marching and chanting slogans against elections.

Along with Islamists, some of the youths who took part in the 2011 uprising that toppled Mubarak either stayed away from the polls or supported Sabahi.

"Where are the youth? What do they want? Do they want to destroy Egypt?" Said Sayyed, a laundry worker in his 70s, said of the boycott.
- AP

Cairo - The ex-army chief who ousted Egypt's first democratically elected leader and crushed his Islamist movement was set for a landslide presidential election win on Tuesday, the final day of voting.

The two-day election is the first since the frontrunner Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in July, a move that unleashed the bloodiest violence in Egypt's recent history.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood is boycotting the vote, as are revolutionary youths who fear Sisi is an autocrat in the making.

But the 59-year-old retired field marshal is expected to trounce his sole rival, leftist Hamdeen Sabbahi, amid widespread calls for stability.

Sisi himself voted minutes after polling opened Monday amid a throng of jostling reporters and supporters. About 53 million people are eligible to vote.

"The entire world is watching us, how Egyptians are writing history and their future today and tomorrow," Sisi said.

Sporadic unrest

"Egyptians must be reassured that tomorrow will be very beautiful and great," he said, as supporters shook his hand and kissed his cheeks.

Many view the vote as a referendum on stability versus the freedoms promised by the Arab Spring-inspired popular uprising that ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Since the revolution, the country of 86 million people has been rocked by sporadic unrest and a tanking economy.

Mubarak's successor, Morsi, lasted one year in office, winning Egypt's first democratic presidential poll only to quickly alienate many who held mass rallies demanding his resignation.

"We need someone who speaks in a determined and strong way. The Egyptian people are frightened by this and respect those who are like this," said Milad Yusef, a 29-year-old lawyer waiting to vote in Cairo.

Yusef said he had voted for Sabbahi in the 2012 election that Morsi won, but that he would now back Sisi.

"We need someone strong, a military man," he said.

Sisi has said "true democracy" would take a couple of decades, and suggested he would not tolerate protests disrupting the economy.

He also pledged to eliminate the Brotherhood, which won every election following Mubarak's overthrow after being banned for decades.

The Islamist movement is boycotting the election, along with the April 6 youth movement which spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt, and said Sunday it would reject the outcome.

Heavy security

"Forgery will never grant legitimacy to a butcher nor will it lessen the determination of revolutionaries," the Brotherhood said.

Voting in the pro-Morsi town of Kerdasa, 35km southwest of Cairo, was low as loyalists of Morsi stayed indoors.

"Sisi killed youths and now he is grabbing power. This is the biggest evidence that [Morsi's ouster] was a coup," Mohamed Gamal, a law graduate who boycotted the vote, told AFP.

Police raided the town in September after 13 officers were killed following Morsi's overthrow.

The Brotherhood, now blacklisted as a terrorist group, has been decapitated in a police crackdown that has killed more than 1 400 people, including an estimated 700 protesters on one day in August.

Morsi himself has been detained and put on trial.

"This election will not wipe the slate clean after 10 months of gross human rights violations," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

Hundreds of soldiers and policemen have also been killed in militant attacks since Morsi's overthrow, with the deadliest claimed by an al-Qaeda-inspired group based in the restive Sinai Peninsula.

Sisi has called for a high turnout in the election, billed by the military-installed authorities and the West as a milestone toward elected rule.

The poll will be followed by parliamentary elections later this year.

Various irregularities

Sisi's sole rival Sabbahi, a veteran dissident, has vowed to defend the democratic aspirations of the 2011 revolt.

"We swear to God that symbols of corruption and despotism [from the Mubarak era] will not return," he said.

Sabbahi's campaign office denounced "various irregularities" during voting, including the arrest of one of its members in Cairo.

Egyptians trickled in to cast their ballots towards end of polling at 18:00 GMT on Monday after long queues earlier in the day.

Polling closed Monday at 18:00 GMT and will open at 06:00 GMT on Tuesday.

Tuesday was declared as public holiday to help people vote and polling was also extended by an hour to close at 1900 GMT, officials said.

Sisi has raised fears Egypt could see more repression than under Mubarak.


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