European Union welcomes Egypt's "democratic" presidential vote
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won an overwhelming majority of votes on Thursday (File/AFP)
Egypt's 2014 presidential vote was held in a "democratic and free" environment, announced the European Union's Election Observation Mission (EOM) in a press conference on Thursday.
Speaking at the same event, MP Robert Goebbels, head of the delegation of six Members of the European Parliament – a separate monitoring body that also observed the elections – concurred with the EOM that the election was “free and democratic” but added it was not necessarily fair.
Goebbels elaborated that the self-censorship practiced by many media outlets,among other things, led to the support of a specific candidate.
Mario David, head of the EOM, said voter turnout reached 46 percent.
El-Sisi garnered approximately 93 percent of the ballots cast, preliminary results show. His sole rival, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, gained a modest three percent, while 3.7 percent of the ballots were declared void.
Voting was scheduled to end on Tuesday, but was extended for an extra day by authorities in a surprise move that sparked doubts over the integrity of the electoral process.
While the EOM's David told reporters that the vote extension was not unlawful, he also informed Ahram Online that "We didn't witness any elections in which an extension for one day has taken place."
David added, however, that "our work is only to observe, not to give an assessment."
The senior monitor said El-Sisi's crushing victory was expected, attributing Sabahi's loss to his small team of campaigners who were unable to reach out to all of the country's electorate.
David, also Portugal’s representative in the European Parliament, said the mission did not record a low turnout, and identified what he deemed a good representation by women.
He added that the media provided a "fair" coverage space for both contenders.
Commenting on the violations reported by Sabahi's official campaign – which included campaigning during the polling time -- David said they were illegal yet do not affect the votes.
A final report about the mission's findings is planned to be issued in six weeks, David said.