|Mubarak officially declared winner of Egypt's elections|
|President Hosni Mubarak was officially declared the winner of Egypt's first contested presidential elections - but the victory was marred by a lower than expected turnout of 23 percent. Mubarak had won a new six-year term with 88.571 percent of the vote, the head of the elections commission, Mamdouh Marie, told reporters, announcing the final results.
Mubarak's main rival, Ayman Nour of the liberal Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Party, won 7.6 percent of the vote and Wafd Party candidate Noman Gomaa was third with 2.9 percent, based on figures read out by Marei.
Rights groups have complained of widespread voting abuses in the elections on Wednesday. Mubarak's victory was widely expected.
A big surprise was the low turnout figure. When Mubarak won his fourth six-year term by referendum in 1999, the government said 79 percent of registered voters took part.
Before Wednesday's election, officials in Mubarak's ruling party said they hoped at least 30 percent of the 32 million registered voters would cast ballots.
Judges and monitoring groups say the authorities have inflated heavily the turnout figures in past votes and often less than 10 percent of people really voted.
The 23 percent turnout figure was roughly in line with the assessments of human rights monitoring groups.
The low participation also reflected widespread skepticism among Egyptians over the government's claims that the election opens the door to greater democratic reform - and apathy over a vote that Mubarak was certain to win.
Nour challenged the results and said that estimates based on his party representatives' exit polls and assessments by judges manning the polling stations gave him between 30 and 38 percent of the vote.
"This is a fraud aimed at eliminating the only candidate who will still be alive for the 2011 presidential election," the 40-year-old lawyer - by far the youngest candidate - told AFP.
He said he filed a new complaint with the electoral commission after his first appeal demanding a rerun was rejected.
Gomaa also accused the regime of having tampered with the results.
"There is a total collusion between the state apparatus and Mubarak's National Democratic Party, which wanted to show it is going to remain the only party in Egypt," said Gomaa.
The monitors and opposition said the voting was marred by ballot stuffing, double voting, intimidation, vote buying and abuse of government
vehicles, mainly by the National Democratic Party.
But the abuses would not have affected the overall result, said several monitoring groups, including the independent Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
The election also saw none of the violence or overt vote rigging that has plagued past parliamentary elections.
Marie, who is the top judge on Egypt's highest court, said the vote was clean and that allegations of violations came out of "over-enthusiasm in a nascent experiment that will be the cornerstone in the construction of democracy."
Gomaa said his party would put together a list of the election violations it witnessed and present them to the commission. But, speaking to Al-Jazeera television, he also acknowledged that the violations were not enough to affect Mubarak's victory.
His party's newspaper, Al-Wafd, highlighted alleged irregularities that marred the vote, however, it still hailed the vote as the birth of democracy in Egypt.
Under the old system, Parliament chose Mubarak as the sole presidential candidate and people voted in a yes-no referendum. Mubarak decided to change the system after the United States and domestic groups pressed for political change.
Cairo,09 12 2005
The Daily Star