Voting begins in Egyptian presidential election

Some 59 million Egyptians are eligible to vote in Monday's election, but the results are widely viewed as foregone conclusion abroad.

An election campaign billboard featuring Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi (photo credit: AMR ABDALLAH DALSH / REUTERS)
An election campaign billboard featuring Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
Voting began throughout Egypt at nine in the morning on Monday, with current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi competing against Moussa Mostafa Moussa, head of the Ghad party. The voting will last for three days.
According to the National Election Commission there are 59 million eligible voters who will vote in around 13,700 registered locations.
The massive election will be overseen by 18,000 judges, and 110,000 employees at thousands of polling stations.
Voters will ink one of their fingers as a sign of voting, a process that evidently ensures no one will vote twice. According to the Egyptian press, polling stations will be closed from 3-4 p.m.
so the attendants can rest.
Egypt has a decades-long history of holding elections.
Recently, in 2012 the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi won Egypt’s first democratic election in the wake of the Arab Spring protests. It was a close race, with Morsi garnering less than 52% of the vote over his independent challenger Ahmed Shafik, who received 48%. In 2013 Sisi led the military’s overthrow of Morsi in the midst of mass protests; in 2014 Sisi won almost 97% of the over 25 million votes cast.
But a lower-than-expected turnout could suggest Sisi lacks a mandate to take more of the tough steps needed to revive the economy, which struggled after the 2011 revolution drove away tourists and foreign investors, both sources of hard currency.
There are several small changes this year. The election authority has set up a new election committee in the city of Halayeb on the Red Sea; its residents will participate for the first time, according to the online newspaper Egypt Independent.
In addition, two polling stations have been opened in Cairo specifically for workers in a construction zone.
Polling stations were also supposed to accommodate disabled people and encourage women to participate, according to instructions published by the election commission.
Dr. Shawky el Sayed at Al-Ahram wrote a column Monday saying that voters were going to the polls under difficult circumstances with the threat of terrorism. But they “insist on survival and growth of prosperity.” He urged voters not to give in to “negativity,” and encouraged a high turnout.
Terrorists have attempted to strike at Egypt in the runup to the vote. On Saturday a bombing in Alexandria aimed at assassinating the local security chief killed two police officers. On Sunday the government said it killed six of the perpetrators.
Abroad the election is portrayed as a “foregone conclusion,” in some Arabic language media that is critical of Egypt. Al-Quds al-Arabi in the UK called it a “pre-determined” election. In Egypt as well as the rest of the Middle East, salacious stories about Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia’s interception of missiles from Yemen received more coverage than the election.
The Civil Democratic Movement, an opposition political coalition, sharply criticized Sisi on February 2 for a speech in which he warned off anyone seeking to challenge his rule and said the events of 2011, which toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, would never happen again.
The movement called the speech an attempt to spread fear that undermined the integrity of electoral competition.
In a letter to US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy team, the Working Group on Egypt – a bipartisan group of US foreign policy specialists – said the “sham election” would take place against a backdrop of massive human rights abuses.
“We urge you not to treat this election as a legitimate expression of the Egyptian people’s will and to withhold praise or congratulations,” it said.
Reuters contributed to this article.