Sisi sweeps election as Egypt military reasserts grip

Sisi sweeps election as Egypt military reasserts grip
Ninety-six per cent of voters, at least 21 million Egyptians, chose retired field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as their president.

CAIRO - Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has scored a crushing presidential election triumph and consolidated the grip of the military, 11 months after the overthrow of the only Egyptian president not drawn from its ranks.

Ninety-six per cent of voters, at least 21 million Egyptians, chose retired field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who deposed elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, with ballots counted from all but a handful of 352 stations, state television reported Thursday.

Sisi's only electoral rival, leftist leader and longtime opposition figure Hamdeen Sabbahi, won less than four per cent.

The former general, who retired from the army to run for office, becomes Egypt's fifth president hailing from the military, reasserting the institution's grip on politics in the Arab world's most populous nation.

The military has always formed the backbone of political life in Egypt and the institution has provided its leaders ever since army officers toppled the monarchy in 1952.

The only exception was Morsi, elected in 2012 a year after an uprising overthrew longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak, himself a former air force commander.

"Few would have imagined that ... three years after Mubarak's toppling, a field marshal, a new pharaoh, would be elected again with 96 per cent, without even unveiling a programme and without campaigning," said Middle East analyst Karim Bitar.

Sisi rode on a wave of support for a potential new strongman who can restore stability and revive the economy after three years of turmoil.

But his opponents say that since he ousted Morsi last July, Egypt has undergone a return to autocratic rule.

A state crackdown targeting Morsi supporters has left at least 1,400 people dead in street clashes and seen more than 15,000 others jailed.

Dozens of young activists have also been jailed for violating a law banning all but police-authorised protests.

Amid the crackdown on dissent condemned by rights groups and Western governments, the military-installed authorities had aimed for a high turnout as a sign of legitimacy.

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