Egypt Goes to the Polls in Second Day of Presidential Election; Outcome Already Known

'Most of the youth see this as a farce'

Egyptians queue up at a polling station in downtown Cairo on March 27, 2018, on the second day of voting in the 2018 presidential elections
AFP PHOTO / Khaled DESOUKI

Egyptians are voting Tuesday on the second day of a lackluster election that President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is virtually certain to win after all serious rivals were either arrested or intimidated into dropping out of the race ahead of balloting.

Voters can choose between el-Sissi, the general-turned-president who came to power after ousting in 2013 his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, and an obscure politician who registered at the last minute and says he doesn’t oppose el-Sissi’s policies, Moussa Mustafa Moussa.

With the outcome known, el-Sissi’s focus will be on keeping voter turnout high enough to show citizens support his rule.

Tuesday is the second day of the three-day voting — a stretch apparently designed to boost participation, though after the first day it seemed weak. Reporting on the election is restricted, with journalists banned from asking voters who they support.

State and private media, which all support el-Sissi, say turnout appeared high on the first day, although reporters on the ground at a dozen polling stations in Cairo observed only a trickle of voters entering the polling stations, at a rate of around two dozen an hour.

At one station in the suburban Sixth of October district on Tuesday, where some 8,000 voters are registered, judges, who in Egypt supervise the balloting, said the previous day’s turnout had been around 14 percent.

One judge said that voters, who trickled in in small numbers as he spoke, had often been coerced to vote.

“I have been hearing stories that hurt my ears,” he said. “Ministries, government agencies, large supermarkets ... You see groups coming together and you can ask them and see what brought them.”

Compared to the 2012 elections, Egypt’s first free democratic contest, “there was real competition compared to this one,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

As he spoke, loudspeakers played pro-army songs, while banners on nearby buildings displayed pro-Sissi slogans.

“It’s better to stand in the queue of voters than in the queue of refugees,” read one banner, a reference to the chaos in Syria following its own revolt against President Bashar Assad. El-Sissi’s supporters say he rescued Egypt from a similar fate.

Across the street, 19-year-old engineering student Salma Mohammed said that older adults often criticized young people who didn’t want to vote for el-Sissi.

“Most of the youth see this as a farce,” she said, adding that some of her friends had been unjustly accused of extremism under el-Sissi’s rule. “There are no freedoms but he also brought security.”