By MENNA ZAKI
CAIRO (AP) — The initial results of Egypt’s presidential election show a landslide win for President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who faced no serious challenge, and a turnout hovering around 40 percent, pro-government media reported Thursday
Counting began after polls closed late Wednesday, wrapping up three days of voting. Egyptian authorities went to great lengths to bolster turnout in a bid to give the election legitimacy. Official results are expected on April 2.
Provincial governors and other officials promised incentives and financial rewards, and in some cases resorted to threats to get people to the polls. The National Elections Authority threatened fines of around $30 for anyone boycotting the election, but similar warnings have been made in the past without being widely enforced.
Local media, which is dominated by pro-el-Sissi commentators, also urged people to vote, portraying it as a national obligation and warning against foreign plots to undermine stability.
Of the 59.7 million registered voters, the Al Masry Al Youm daily said early results reveal that around 25 million cast their ballots, with the lion’s share going to el-Sissi. It said his little-known opponent, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, only garnered some 3 percent of votes.
Another daily, Al Youm Al Sabea, said some 23 million voted and that el-Sissi is leading with around 21 million votes compared to less than a million for his opponent and 1.5 million invalid votes.
Official turnout was 47.45 percent in 2014, when el-Sissi was elected with 96.9 percent of the vote.
In the lead-up to the election, several potential candidates were arrested or withdrew from the race under pressure. Moussa joined at the last minute — sparing the government the embarrassment of a one-candidate race — and made no effort to challenge el-Sissi.
El-Sissi has waged a major crackdown on dissent since he led the 2013 military overthrow of Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, amid mass protests calling on Morsi to resign.
Authorities have jailed thousands of Islamists as well as several prominent secular activists. Unauthorized protests are banned, and hundreds of websites, including those of independent media and rights groups, have been blocked. Several local reporters have been jailed, and a British journalist was expelled last month.
El-Sissi has said such measures are necessary to defeat an Islamic State-led insurgency based in the northern Sinai Peninsula and to rebuild the economy after years of unrest.