• Wednesday, Sep 26, 2018
  • Last Update : 02:56 pm

Amid slow voting, Egypt's Sisi cruises towards victory

  • Published at 12:43 am March 28th, 2018
Amid slow voting, Egypt's Sisi cruises towards victory
Egyptian authorities pressed for a high turnout on Tuesday on the second day of a presidential election designed to give President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a sweeping victory against no real competition in a contest dismissed by critics as sham. In an effort to dispel voter apathy, the state news agency reminded Egyptians that voting is mandatory by law and those who do not, face a fine of $28 or less - a sanction that in previous elections has not been enforced rigorously. Sisi says he is seeking a second term to repair the economic damage from years of political turmoil, defeat Islamist insurgents and revive Egypt's role as a pre-eminent Arab power. Sisi's only opponent is an obscure politician loyal to Sisi. More serious challengers were forced to step down and several opposition politicians called for a boycott of the vote, saying repression had removed credible challengers. But authorities hope that over three days it can mobilise a strong turnout. The president still has many admirers, although austerity measures in recent years and a fierce crackdown on Islamists, secularists and liberals have reduced that support. Brigadier General Ali Hareedi, head of the government's central elections operations room, said that the first day of voting produced a high turnout "which proves the Egyptian people’s awareness". He gave no figure. Pro-Sisi media described ballot centres flooded with voters. "Millions of voters gather in front of polling stations... and rejoice in every square," ran a headline in the newspaper Al-Akhbar. Two sources monitoring the election, including one from the National Election Commission, said about 13.5% of 59 million eligible voters cast ballots on Monday. If that rate is repeated on Tuesday and Wednesday, the turnout would be 40%. At a polling station in Fayoum, a bastion of Islamist support 100km south of Cairo, an election official reckoned the turnout at 25%, only to be quickly corrected by an army officer who said "over 50." One woman, a 55-year-old civil servant, said she voted partly because her employer encouraged her to, but also because "there’s security now, it’s not like Iraq, Syria or Yemen." Her husband did not vote though. "He's not happy about the economy, we hope it will improve but God only knows. Not everyone is voting because not everyone is convinced (by Sisi)."