Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh al-Sisi may have been re-elected to a second term, but many Egyptians would have preferred to see 25-year-old soccer star Mohamed Salah running the country instead.
Former military commander al-Sisi won 97 per cent of the vote Monday in an election marked by an absence of any real opposition — the only other candidate was himself an ardent Sisi supporter, with serious opposition contenders all pulling out citing intimidation.
Disillusioned by the limited range of candidates, over a million Egyptian voters spoiled their ballots, with some of them casting their vote for Salah, the Economist reported.
The forward became a national hero in Egypt after he led his country to qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, scoring a dramatic last-second penalty kick against Congo to prompt scenes of euphoria and tearful jubilation at the Borg el Arab Stadium in Alexandria, and across Egypt.
The Pharaohs, as Egypt’s national soccer team is known, will play Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and tournament hosts Russia in the group stages of the World Cup.
In addition to his heroics with Egypt, Salah has also enjoyed a standout season with his club team Liverpool F.C. in the English Premier League, where he is currently the top goalscorer and front-runner to be voted Player of the Season.
Aside from marking Salah’s popularity in his homeland, the protest votes also speak to widespread disenchantment over an election widely derided as being a sham, independent Egyptian news outlet Mada Masr reported.
Voter turn out was a low 41 per cent, with the United Nations and international observers expressing concern over the government’s crackdown on dissent.
The election was Egypt’s third since the country’s 2011 revolution, which culminated in the ouster of long-time leader Hosni Mubarak.