x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Egypt's election begins as Al Sisi seeks second term

Fears of low turnout after lacklustre campaign in lop-sided contest

Egyptians started to vote in a presidential election on Monday between incumbent Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and a little-known candidate who has struggled to make the case for change at the top.

Polling stations opened at 9 am for the three-day vote in which Al Sisi is all but guaranteed to win a second four-year term.

Security will be tight across the country. ISIL's Egyptian affiliate, which has killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians, has threatened attacks on election-related installations.

On Saturday, two policemen were killed in a car bomb attack targeting the provincial head of security for the Alexandria governorate. The security chief was unharmed.

Some 60 million people in Egypt, the most populated Arab country, are registered to vote. Official results are expected on April 2.

They will have the choice between Mr Sisi and Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who registered right before the close date for applications, saving the election from being a one-horse race.

Mr Mostafa, who has denied he is a "puppet," had been leading a Sisi re-election campaign until the moment he registered as a candidate.

Other opponents have been sidelined, including former military chief of staff Sami Anan, who was detained in January shortly after announcing his candidacy.

The military said the reserve general broke the law by illegally declaring his candidacy.

______________

Egypt to elect president as opposition urges boycott

______________

In an interview broadcast on Egyptian television last week, Mr Sisi, 63, said the lack of serious opponents was not his doing.

"I wish we had one, or two, or three, or 10 of the best people and you choose however you want," he said.

Sisi had won his first term in 2014, a year after the former army chief ousted his Islamist predecessor Mohammed Morsi following mass protests demanding his resignation.

In that election, Mr Sisi faced Hamdeen Sabbahi, an established left-wing politician much better known than Mr Mostafa. Still, he won 96.9 per cent of the vote.

With Al Sisi's re-election almost assured, the authorities' concern this year would be the turnout to enhance the legitimacy of the vote.

Mr Al Sisi has stressed in his pre-election appearances the importance of voters turning out in large numbers.

In 2014, about 37 per cent of voters participated in the two-day election, prompting authorities to add a third day to obtain a final participation rate of 47.5 per cent.

It is unlikely this year that even that 37 per cent will be achieved, said analyst Mostafa Kamel Al Sayed.

"The result is known in advance, and this does not encourage Egyptians to go out and vote," he said.

During the campaign, the president appeared frequently on television and in newspapers, hailing factories and infrastructure projects built in the past four years.

Egyptian cities, especially Cairo, are flooded with banners featuring photographs of Al Sisi and messages of support from business owners. Posters vowing support for Moussa, 65, are rarely seen.

But with an economic crisis and gruelling price hikes – and the return of a regime seen as at least as authoritative as that of Hosni Mubarak – support for Mr Al Sisi appears to be slightly in decline.