CAIRO — President-elect Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, Egypt’s former army chief, said after he was officially declared the landslide winner of last week’s election that it is now “time to work” to rebuild the country.
Thousands celebrated in public squares nationwide with fireworks and pro-military songs after the election commission announced that Sissi had won nearly 97 percent of the vote. Turnout was reported at 47.5 percent.
He is to be sworn in Sunday to replace Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, whom Sissi ousted last summer. Since then, Sissi has ridden to power on the support of Egyptians craving stability after three years of turmoil, bolstered by a nationalist mania stoked by pro-military TV and newspapers. His supporters and the news media have cheered the fierce crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood backers.
But the return of a career military man to the presidency has raised fears that Sissi will impose a new autocratic order along the lines of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president for 29 years until he was ousted in a popular uprising in 2011.
Secular critics of the military-backed government that replaced Morsi have been arrested, and protests are virtually banned. On Monday, the Interior Ministry announced plans to increase surveillance of the Internet for a variety of “dangers” — including extremism and “humiliating mockery” of officials. Social media were one of the main vehicles for engineering the 2011 uprising.
The first world leader to congratulate Sissi was Saudi King Abdullah, a close ally who opposed Mubarak’s toppling. He called for a donors conference to help Egypt “get out of the tunnel,” a reference to its wrecked economy.
Sissi campaigned on promises to bring back stability and achieve “great leaps” in repairing the economy. But he also said demands for freedoms should be reined in because they fuel turmoil, and he has shown little tolerance for dissent.
The election commission said that Sissi garnered nearly 24 million votes and that his sole rival, leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, received 318,000 — fewer than the 1.4 million invalid ballots cast.
Speaking in a televised address after the results were announced, Sissi said, “It is now time to work. Work that will carry Egypt to a bright tomorrow and better future and restore stability.”
His victory was never in doubt, but he had pushed for a massive turnout to bestow legitimacy on his ouster of Morsi.
Sissi’s win was dented by the extraordinary means used by the government to drum up turnout. After signs that the first of two scheduled days of balloting drew only 15 percent of the voters, the government declared the next day a national holiday to free up people to go to the polls. The election commission threatened to fine those who did not vote. When polling still seemed low, the commission extended the election to a third day.