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El-Sissi wins Egypt’s presidential election, secures third term in office

CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who has ruled with an unquestioned grip for the past nine years, won re-election to a third, six-year term in office, election authorities announced Monday. He ran against three virtually unknown opponents.

El-Sissi recorded a landslide victory, securing 89.6 percent of the vote, the National Election Authority said. Turnout was 66.8 percent of more than 67 million registered voters.

“The voting percentage is the highest in the history of Egypt,” declared Hazem Badawy, the election commission chief, who announced the official results in a televised news conference.

The vote was overshadowed by the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza on Egypt’s eastern border, which has threatened to expand into wider regional turmoil.

Egyptians voted “to express their rejection to this inhumane war,” el-Sissi said during a televised speech that followed the results announcement. Since the outbreak of the war, Cairo has accused Israel of trying to push Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt and quash Palestinian demands for statehood.

The North African country is also in the midst of an economic crisis, with monthly inflation surging above 30 percent. Over the past 22 months, the Egyptian pound has lost 50 percent of its value against the dollar, with one third of the country’s 105 million people already living in poverty, according to official figures.

A key Western ally in the region, el-Sissi has faced international criticism over Egypt’s human rights record and harsh crackdown on dissent. A career army officer and defense minister at the time, he led the 2013 military overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, amid widespread street protests against his one-year rule.

El-Sissi was first elected as president in mid-2014, then re-elected in 2018. A year later, constitutional amendments, passed in a general referendum, added two years to el-Sissi’s second term, and allowed him to run for a third, six-year term.

His victory in this latest election was widely deemed a foregone conclusion — his three opponents were marginal political figures who were rarely seen during the election campaign.

Hazem Omar, head of the Republican People’s Party, came in second with 4.5 percent of the vote, followed by Farid Zahran, head of the opposition Social Democratic Party with 4 percent. Abdel-Sanad Yamama, chairman of the Wafd Party, received less than 2 percent of the vote.

An ambitious young presidential hopeful, Ahmed Altantawy, dropped out of the race after he failed to secure the required signatures from residents to support his candidacy. He was considered el-Sissi’s most credible opposition figure and said that harassment from security agencies against his campaign staff and supporters prevented him from reaching the voter threshold for candidacy.

Ahead of the election, el-Sissi vowed to address Egypt’s ailing economy, without offering specifics.

Experts and economists widely agree the current crisis stems from years of mismanagement and lopsided economy, where private firms are squeezed out by state-owned companies. The Egyptian economy has also been hurt by the wider repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine, which rattled the global market.

El-Sissi’s government initiated an ambitious, International Monetary Fund-backed reform program in 2016, but the austerity measures sent prices soaring, exacting a heavy toll on ordinary Egyptians.

Last December, the government secured a second IMF deal on the promise of implementing economic reforms, including a floating exchange rate. The cost of basic goods has since jumped, particularly of imports.

Timothy Kaldas, deputy director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, said a quick fix to the economy is highly unlikely. Inflation will remain high and investors weary, he said. “Without inclusive growth and investment, Egypt will never reach a stable footing.”

Under el-Sissi’s watch, thousands of government critics have been silenced or jailed. They are mainly Islamists but also prominent secular activists and opposition figures, including many of those behind the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

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