Former army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi has captured more than 90 percent of the votes in Egypt's presidential election, according to unofficial results. Polling had been extended an extra day due to low turnout.
With early results coming in after voting ended on Wednesday, Sissi had garnered 93.4 percent of the vote, his campaign team said in a statement. Private television channel CBC, meanwhile, reported Sissi was winning 97 percent of the vote in the first 2,000 counting centers.
Sissi, the ex-army chief who orchestrated the coup to oust former President Mohammed Morsi last July, is had long been expected to handily defeat leftist challenger Hamdeen Sabahi.
Authorities chose to keep voting booths open an extra day after turnout on Monday and Tuesday was far below what Sissi had called for.
Estimates by pro-Sissi media said 38 to 44 percent of the country's 53 million eligible voters had gone to the polls, far below the 52 percent who elected Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader, in 2012.
There were fireworks in Cairo as the results began to come through, with celebrations lasting into the early hours of Thursday morning. About 1,000 people gathered in Tahrir Square, the symbolic heart of 2011's popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
Voter participation low
Sissi had called on "40, 45 [million] or even more" of the country's voters to participate, "show the world" and lend credibility to an election that was boycotted by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and secular opposition groups.
The low turnout, however, has directed more criticism at an election Sissi and his supporters had hoped would show the government's harsh crackdown on the Brotherhood and other dissenters had been the will of the Egyptian people.
After the meager numbers the first two days, many polling stations were nearly deserted on Wednesday.
"The state is searching for votes" read a headline on the front page of Al-Masry Al-Youm, a newspaper usually sympathetic to Sissi.
Egypt's military-appointed interim government had spent weeks growing support for Sissi and portraying him as the man to guide the country out of its current economic crisis. High unemployment, inflation and overall economic instability have plagued Egypt in the years since longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February 2011.
Low turnout welcomed
The Muslim Brotherhood hailed the low turnout in the controversial vote.
"The great Egyptian people have given a new slap to the military coup's roadmap and … written the death certificate of the military coup," said the Islamist group's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party.
The Brotherhood has been the target of a massive crackdown by the government since Morsi's ouster. Hundreds of its supporters have been killed in clashes with security forces, the group has been designated a "terrorist organization" and many of its main leaders are either in jail or exile. Morsi himself is currently being tried on charges that could carry the death penalty.
Prominent secular and youth activists that played a key role in the 2011 revolution also boycotted this week's vote, saying Sissi was another autocrat in the mold of Mubarak.
Since the July 3 coup to unseat Morsi, the government crackdown on the Brotherhood and other Islamists has caused some of the worst bloodshed in Egypt's recent history. Sissi, meanwhile, has said bringing "true democracy" to the country will take a couple of decades.
dr, jr/jm (AFP, AP)