Egypt election: Sisi cruising to victory despite low turnout

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Egyptian authorities pressed for a high turnout on Tuesday on the second day of a presidential election expected to give President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi a sweeping victory in the absence of real competition, in a contest dismissed by critics as sham.

In an effort to enthuse voters, the state news agency reminded Egyptians that voting is mandatory and those who do not vote, face a fine of up to 500 pounds ($28) – a sanction that in previous elections has not been enforced rigorously.

“I expect turnout and participation to increase in the coming hours, and I call on Egyptians to go out and vote,” said Prime Minister Sherif Ismail.

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.

His 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 they can mobilize 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 central elections operations room, said the first day of voting produced a high turnout “which proves the Egyptian people’s awareness”. He gave no figure.

Pro-Sisi media said voters were flocking to ballot centers.

“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 percent of 59 million eligible voters had cast ballots on Monday.

Sisi, who in 2013 led the military overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, took 47 percent of the vote when he was first elected, in 2014.

Titi