CAIRO — Partial results of Egypt’s presidential election announced late Wednesday showed the nation’s former military chief comfortably ahead of his rival after votes from 2,000 polling stations were counted.

The campaign of retired field marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said he won 4.2 million votes, with left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabahi taking 133,548.

El-Sissi’s win was never in doubt, but the career infantry officer had hoped for a strong turnout to bestow legitimacy on his ouster last July of Egypt’s first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi.

However, el-Sissi’s campaign said turnout nationwide was around 44 percent, well below the nearly 52 percent won by Morsi, even after voting was extended for a third day.

In his final campaign TV interview last week, el-Sissi, 59, said he wanted more than 45 million voters to cast ballots – a turnout of more than 80 percent – to “show the world” the extent of his popular backing.

El-Sissi supporters began celebrating in Cairo, with hundreds gathering at Tahrir square, birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Critics said the lack of enthusiasm at the polls was in part due to apathy among even el-Sissi supporters, knowing that his victory was a foregone conclusion. Others said it shows discontent with el-Sissi, not just among his Islamist foes but among a broader section of the public that believes he has no concrete plans.