• President-elect to Egyptians: “Time to work”
     | June 04,2014
    ap photo

    A supporter of Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the nation’s former military chief, hugs his poster during a celebration at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday. El-Sissi was officially declared the next president Tuesday, winning elections to replace the Islamist leader he removed from the post last year.

    CAIRO — Egypt’s president-elect, the former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, told Egyptians it is now “time to work” to rebuild the country after he was officially declared the landslide winner of last week’s election.

    Thousands celebrated in public squares around the country with cheers, fireworks and pro-military songs after the Election Commission officially announced el-Sissi’s victory with nearly 97 percent of the vote in an election that it said saw a turnout of 47.45 percent.

    El-Sissi is to be sworn in Sunday to replace Egypt’s first democratically elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, whom the then-army chief ousted last summer. Since then, el-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 media have cheered the fierce crackdown on Morsi’s supporters that has killed hundreds and arrested thousands the past 11 months.

    But a return of a career military man to the presidency has also raised fears among many Egyptians that el-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. Already, there have been arrests of secular critics of the military-backed government, and law issued after Morsi’s ouster virtually bans protests, allowing only those with a police permit.

    The first world leader to congratulate el-Sissi was his close ally, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was also opposed to the toppling of Mubarak. The monarch declared that the turmoil sparked by the Arab Spring should now come to a close.

    “This is a historic day,” the king said in a letter on the Saudi state news agency. “The brotherly Egyptian people have suffered in the past period of chaos. Some of those short sighted called it the creative chaos.” He called for donors conference to help Egypt “get out of the tunnel,” referring to its wrecked economy.

    El-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 showed little tolerance for dissent.

    Speaking in a televised address after the results were announced, he said, “It is now time to work. Work that will carry Egypt to a bright tomorrow and better future and restore stability.”

    “The future Is a blank page and it is in our hands to fill it as we wish,” he said, wearing a dark suit and looking tanned. “Cooperation in work and construction will lead to prosperity.”

    Some of el-Sissi’s sharpest critics have been activists who led the anti-Mubarak uprising, known as the Jan. 25 Revolution. In a clear nod to them, he repeated the revolution’s main slogan in the short address, promising “bread, freedom, dignity and social justice.”

    The Election Commission said el-Sissi garnered 23.78 million votes — or 96.9 percent of the total. His sole rival, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, received 318,000 — fewer than the 1.4 million invalid ballots cast in the polling.

    El-Sissi’s victory was never in doubt, but the career infantry officer had pushed for a massive turnout as well to bestow legitimacy on his ouster of Morsi and the ensuing crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist supporters.

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