CAIRO — Egyptians lined up to vote on Tuesday, the second and final day of the presidential election with the country’s former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi poised for an almost certain victory.
The 59-year-old retired Field Marshal el-Sissi was hoping for a large turnout to send a message to the West that his removal almost a year ago of the Islamist Mohamed Morsi — Egypt’s first freely elected leader — was not a coup but a popular revolution such as the 2011 uprising that ended autocrat Hosni Mubarak’s almost 30-year-long rule.
Election monitoring groups said the turnout Monday was moderate and in towns where Islamists dominate, often thin or non-existent.
This apparently prompted the government to declare Tuesday a public holiday to allow millions of government employees — there are roughly 5.5 million government workers in this country of about 90 million people — time to go and cast ballots, and extended voting hours by one hour.
Even though the turnout halfway through the vote is difficult to gauge, there was no doubting Egypt’s deep divisions, which were on full display on the first day of voting.
At some polling stations in Cairo, lines of el-Sissi supporters waved Egyptian flags and wore clothes in the national red-white-and-black colors. Men and women, including ones wearing the conservative Muslim veil, danced to pro-military pop songs.
In the strongholds of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies — who dominated all other elections since Mubarak’s ouster — the polls were virtually empty after the group called for a boycott. That will likely reduce turnout by a sizeable chunk of Egypt’s nearly 54 million registered voters.
For 10 months since Morsi’s ouster at the hands of the military, then run by el-Sissi, the former army chief has had the institutions of state and nearly all of Egypt’s media behind him, whipping up a pro-military jingoism and depicting him as the sole figure who can rescue the country.
His only rival in the race is left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who finished third in the 2012 presidential vote but is not believed capable of taking more than a symbolic number of votes from el-Sissi.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.