– Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former army field marshal who led last summer's military takeover, won election as president with more than 90 percent of the vote, according to preliminary tallies Wednesday night. But it was the reported turnout that caught some by surprise.

Officials said nearly 40 percent of the electorate had cast ballots, an unexpectedly strong showing after days of escalating panic in the government over the lack of voters at the polls.

Supporters of el-Sissi had counted on a respectable turnout to legitimize his assumption of power after the ouster last summer of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's first fairly elected leader. But el-Sissi's critics say the vote was so marred by irregularities that its outcome, including the turnout, was all but meaningless — except perhaps as the sign of a return to the era when strongmen like Hosni Mubarak won similarly predictable landslides.

El-Sissi's victory was never in doubt. A tightly restricted political process all but guaranteed it, driving away all but one opponent, Hamdeen Sabahi.

Yet when Egyptians failed to show up in significant numbers for the scheduled two-day election on Monday and Tuesday, the military-backed government showed signs of desperation in its efforts to urge more people to the polls. Finally, as the scheduled two-day vote was about to end Tuesday night, election officials took the extraordinary step of adding a third day to the voting.

New York Times