Cairo- Voting officially began across Egypt on Monday, March 26, for the three-day presidential election, in which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is set to win a second term in Egypt's third presidential elections since the 2011 revolution.
Cairo- Voting officially began across Egypt on Monday, March 26, for the three-day presidential election, in which President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is set to win a second term in Egypt’s third presidential elections since the 2011 revolution.
Almost 60 million eligible voters are expected to head to the poll centers from Monday to Wednesday, to choose between the incumbent Sisi and his only and little-known rival, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who had previously offered his support to Sisi and stepped in as a presidential candidate right before the close date for applications.
According to some political experts, Moussa, leader of the tiny liberal Al-Ghad party, is unlikely to garner a significant number of votes. Skeptics claim he joined the race at the last minute to give the election a certain legitimacy and “to spare the government the embarrassment of a one-candidate election,” after some of Sisi’s potential contenders were dismissed, imprisoned, or discouraged from participating.
Less than two weeks after he announced his intention to run for president, Egypt’s former chief of staff, Sami Annan, was arrested last January over charges of forging documents that would allow him to take part in the election and “incitement” against the military. His arrest appeared to be a calculated move to force out a potentially serious challenger to President Sisi, who is himself an ex-general.
Prominent lawyer and figurehead for Egypt’s left, Khaled Ali, also dropped out in January, saying the authorities harassed and intimidated his supporters.
“The opportunity for hope in this presidential election has gone,” Ali said during a press conference after announcing his withdrawal from elections, becoming the latest would-be candidate in the March 26-28 balloting, which appears to be a little more than a one-candidate referendum.
In a televised interview broadcast last week, the general-turned-president said the lack of serious rivals was not his fault.
“Really, I swear, I wish there were one or two or even 10 of the best people and you would get to choose whoever you want,” he said.
“We are just not ready.”
President Sisi was among the first to head to polls as soon as they opened at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, in a high-security school located in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, according to Egypt’s media outlets.
While some opposition leaders are calling for boycott, the Egyptian government has relentlessly hastened efforts to urge people to go out and vote, portraying voting as a national duty, required to protect the country against foreign conspiracies.
Several banners and posters, of different sizes, hailing Sisi were displayed all over Cairo’s streets and across Egypt, while advertising for his challenger Moussa could hardly be seen. From Tahrir Square to Sayyida Aisha, many Egyptian shops, restaurants, and even small grocery stores are hanging banners in support of the certain winner, Sisi.
“With all love, we support Sisi’s reelection,” one poster reads. “Think it right, Sisi is right.”
These billboards, which have widely stirred up sarcasm among Egyptians, are believed to be funded by individuals and entities, from private businesses and loyal political groups to lawmakers, trade unions, and state-owned companies.
“Sisi doesn’t need an official campaign, Esha’b (the people), will take care of it,” one citizen told Morocco World News, ironically.
“Today we are celebrating democracy,” he added.
Ahead of the elections, Egyptian authorities have deployed thousands of policemen and soldiers to protect polling stations across the country and secure the main roads leading to them.
The result will be announced on April 2, according to the National Election Authority.