Egyptians choosing between popular former defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Nasserist rival Hamdeen Sabahy, with most observers expecting Sisi to win comfortably, particularly after securing close to 95 percent of the expatriate vote last week.
However, high temperatures across the country, along with the widespread expectation of an inevitable Sisi victory, have meant that voter turnout was lower than expected on Monday and Tuesday.
The Egyptian government has called on all citizens to vote, designating Tuesday a national holiday and extending the voting period by 24 hours in order to facilitate the vote. “The objective is to allow for the largest amount of voters to cast their vote, and to give expatriates the opportunity to return to their districts of origin and vote,” the Election Commission said.
The statement added that the decision to extend the voting to a third day came in response to calls from Egyptian citizens who had been unable to cast their ballots during the first two days of the poll. The election commission explicitly referred to high temperatures, saying that many voters had sought to vote later in the day.
The Presidential Elections Commission also said it could seek to enforce Article 47 of Egypt’s Election Law, which would fine voters 500 Egyptians pounds (approximately 70 US dollars) for failing to cast their ballot. The statement aroused controversy across the political spectrum, with many saying that the move would penalize Egypt’s poorest citizens.
It was unclear as of Wednesday whether the Election Commission intends to follow through with the threat, with low voter turnout also reported on the last day.
Asharq Al-Awsat spoke with voters outside several polling stations in Cairo’s northern Giza district of Imbaba, which had previously been known for its strong Islamist political leanings. Most said they would be voting for former army chief Sisi.
Hajj Mohamed, 55, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I decided to gamble on [former] Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi today. This is not out of hatred for Hamdeen Sabahy, as I voted for him during the first round of the 2012 presidential elections. I then voted for Mohamed Mursi in the second round [over] Ahmed Shafiq. My vote today is based out of my hope for Sisi, and I will wait and see if these hopes are realized.”
Yasser Mohammed, who is in his thirties, said that the most important thing was for the next president to bring stability to the country.
“I personally do not care about the political affiliation of the candidates, or whether the new president comes from a civilian or military background,” he said. “The most important thing is for the new president to stabilize the country and end the state of political division that endures.”
Mohammed refused to name the candidate he voted for, but pointing to his ink-stained finger he said: “I voted for the candidate who I think will be able to create job opportunities and restart the stalled process of production.”