Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's victory in last week's election was never in doubt, but the vote produced a surprise runner-up — an unusually large number of invalid ballots, suggesting a possible protest vote against el-Sissi or the election itself.
Official figures released Monday by the election commission gave el-Sissi 97 percent of the vote, securing him a second, four-year term in office following an election in which he ran virtually unopposed. His sole challenger, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, a little-known politician who made no effort to challenge him, received 656,534 votes, or 2.92 percent.
Moussa's tally was outdone by the 1.76 million invalid ballots, which would have amounted to 7.27 percent of votes cast, a considerably higher percentage than in the last two presidential elections: 4.07 percent in 2014 and 3.1 percent in the 2012 runoff.
Moussa entered the election at the very last moment after first leading a re-election campaign for el-Sissi, saving the vote from having just one candidate. His serious contenders either withdrew, were sidelined or were detained.
U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated el-Sissi on his victory in a telephone call, the White House said in a statement that did not mention any worries over the fairness of the vote. "The two leaders affirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and noted that they look forward to advancing this partnership and addressing common challenges," it said. Last year, Trump signaled a new era in U.S.-Egypt relations, assuring his Egyptian dictator that years of tepid relations will now give way to a "great bond" between their two nations.