Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s victory in last week’s election was never in doubt, but the vote produced a surprise runner-up — an unusually large number of invalid ballots, suggesting a possible protest vote against el-Sissi or the election itself. Official figures released Monday by the election commission gave el-Sissi 97 percent of the vote, securing him a second, four-year term in office following an election in which he ran virtually unopposed. His sole challenger, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, a little-known politician who made no effort to challenge him, received 656,534 votes, or 2.92 percent. Moussa’s tally was outdone by the 1.76 million invalid ballots, which would have amounted to 7.27 percent of votes cast, a considerably higher percentage than in the last two presidential elections: 4.07 percent in 2014 and 3.1 percent in the 2012 runoff.
Critics denounced the latest election as a farce because a string of potentially serious challengers were either forced out of the race or arrested. Moussa stepped in the last minute to spare the government the embarrassment of a one-candidate election that would have resembled the referendums long held by the region’s autocrats.
Authorities went to great lengths to encourage turnout, hoping to lend the vote credibility. In the end, turnout was 41.05 percent, down from 47.45 percent when el-Sissi won his first election in 2014.