Polls have closed in Egypt’s presidential election which former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is expected to win.
Following three days of voting, polls closed late on Wednesday and the ballot counting commenced immediately. Preliminary results were expected early on Thursday.
The vote was originally due to conclude on Tuesday but was extended until 9pm (18:00 GMT) on Wednesday to allow the “greatest number possible” to vote, state media reported.
Poor turnout of voters during the first two days of the polling cast doubt over the level of popular support for Sisi.
Earlier in the day, state and privately owned media loyal to Sisi put the turnout at between 37 and 46 percent of the electorate of 54 million. In a speech last week, Sisi had called for 40 million votes, or 80 percent of the electorate.
The electoral commission said that over Monday and Tuesday, the scheduled two days of polling, just 37 percent of eligible voters cast ballots – a number well below the nearly 52 percent who voted in the 2012 election that brought Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi to power.
The lower turnout than Sisi had sought will sound a warning that he had failed to rally the level of popular support he hoped for after toppling Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, following street protests last year.
The Democracy International observer mission said the decision to extend polling raised questions about the integrity of Egypt’s electoral process.
“Last-minute decisions about important election procedures, such as a decision to extend polling by an additional day, should be made only in extraordinary circumstances,” Eric Bjornlund, president of Democracy International, said in a statement.
Supporters of Morsi have called for a boycott of the vote and have said they will not recognise its outcome.
The Muslim Brotherhood, believed to have one million members, describes the poll as as an extension of the army takeover, Reuters news agency reported. At least 1,000 members were killed in a security crackdown last year.