AFP – Egypt was wrapping up a presidential election Tuesday with fears of a low turnout threatening to cloud the expected victory of the ex-army chief who toppled its first freely elected leader.
As polls opened for the second and final day of voting, authorities announced that they were declaring a public holiday and extending polling hours until 1900 GMT to encourage voters to turn out.
A comfortable win for former army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi over his sole rival leftist Hamdeen Sabahy has never been seriously in doubt. But Sisi and his supporters have repeatedly called for a large turnout to give credibility to his expected victory and his ouster of elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July last year.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, subjected to a brutal police crackdown and designated a terror group last December, has urged a boycott of the election.
So too have key activists behind the Arab Spring uprising that toppled long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011, who fear Sisi is an autocrat in the making.
The interior ministry said that turnout on the first day of voting reached about 16 million out of the country’s 53 million eligible voters. But several Cairo polling stations visited by AFP were deserted in the first hours of voting on Tuesday.
Sisi issued a personal plea for a large turnout after casting his ballot on Monday. “The entire world is watching us, how Egyptians are writing history and their future today and tomorrow,” he said surrounded by cheering supporters.
Many view the vote as a choice between stability and the freedoms promised by the Arab Spring.
Photos by AFP and Ahmed AlMalky