CAIRO - Former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was on course for a sweeping victory in the country's presidential election on Wednesday, according to early provisional results.

Sisi's campaign said their man had captured 93.4 percent with 2,000 polling stations counted, while judicial sources said he had 89 percent with 3,000 polling stations counted.

His only rival, veteran leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, was on 2.9 percent according to the Sisi campaign, while the judicial sources put Sabahi on 5 percent, with the rest of the ballots deemed void.

The partial results came 90 minutes after polls closed after three days of voting.

Turnout was 44.4 percent of Egypt's 54 million voters, according to the judicial sources.

That would be less than the 40 million votes, or 80 percent of the electorate, that Sisi had called for last week.

The lower than expected turnout figure raises questions about Sisi's credibility as leader of the Arab world's most populous nation.

It would also suggest that he had failed to rally the overwhelming support he hoped for after toppling Egypt's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, following street protests last year.

A tour of Cairo polling stations on Wednesday saw only a trickle of voters. The same pattern emerged in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, Reuters reporters said.

In a country polarized since a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Many Egyptians said voters had stayed at home due to political apathy, opposition to another military man becoming president, discontent at suppression of freedoms among liberal youth, and calls for a boycott by Islamists.

VOTE EXTENDED

The two-day vote was originally due to conclude on Tuesday but was extended until 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) Wednesday to allow the "greatest number possible" to vote, state media reported.

Fireworks erupted in Cairo when Sisi's results began to emerge. His supporters waved Egyptian flags and sounded car horns on the crowded streets of the capital.

Earlier, a 45-year-old Cairo shopkeeper, who gave her name as Samaa, said at a polling station in downtown Cairo she was supporting Sisi. "Our country can now only be handled by a military man, we need order."

Despite an official campaign to bring out more voters, Egyptians, many opposed to Sisi, gave various reasons for their lack of enthusiasm.

The Muslim Brotherhood, believed to have one million members, has rejected the poll, describing it as an extension of the army takeover. The group, loyal to Morsi, was outlawed by the military as a terrorist group and saw around 1,000 members killed in a security crackdown.

Young secular activists, including those who backed Morsi's ouster, had become disillusioned with Sisi after many were rounded up in the security crackdown that also restricted protests.

Since he gave a series of television interviews, many Egyptians feel Sisi has not spelled out a clear vision of how he would tackle Egypt's challenges, from widespread poverty to an energy crisis and an Islamist insurgency.

Some Brotherhood supporters felt emboldened to speak out, feeling vindicated by the lower turnout.

"Now I can say I am a Morsi supporter," said Ahmed Ali, a 28-year-old Cairo shopkeeper.




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