Voting in Egypt’s presidential elections began on Monday with victory expected for the incumbent Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in the country’s third presidential elections since the 2011 revolution.
There is only one other candidate, Musa Mustafa Musa, who leads a party that had initially backed El-Sisi’s re-election bid, after others withdrew claiming repression and intimidation.
Turnout will be key to gauging the strength of support for El-Sisi, and Egyptian media urged people to go to the polling stations, which will be open for three days.
“The challenge now is not whether or not El-Sisi will win. The challenge is how many people are going (to vote),” said Amr Adib, an Egyptian talk show host, who defended the elections.
“International media are against this election and do not speak well about it … but they don’t see what we see. They didn’t witness the terrorism or the two revolutions or the emergency law or the conditions we live in.”
Some young Egyptians expressed disappointment with the lack of choice. “El-Sisi said go vote and say ‘no’ to me if you don’t want me … where is the ‘no’ field on the form?” said Hassan Mohammed, a 33-year-old engineer and resident of Sheikh Zayed in Giza.
“If they add a ‘no’ field, I will go and say no but without this I won’t visit the polls today. What is the point?”
El-Sisi, 63, led the military’s 2013 overthrow of Mohammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Several opposition figures have urged a boycott of the vote while many international observers have criticized repression of civil society.
But many Egyptians defended El-Sisi as a force for stability even as the economy continues to suffer.
“I came here to show the world that Egypt is a democratic state, unlike what the West says,” said Mohammed Magdy, a 62-year-old who lives in Maadi. “I’m sure there will be a big turnout.”
Nabawya Sayed, a 60-year-old from Al-Sayeda Zainab, said: “We are sure that El-Sisi would win but we had to come and vote today nevertheless because the president asked us to participate.”
Mona Gamal, 33-year-old housewife, said: “It’s enough that El-Sisi made this country safe. I don’t need another reason to vote for him.”
The largest concentrations of voters are in Cairo with 7.5 million voters, followed by Giza with 5.2 million, Sharqiya with 4 million, Alexandria with 3.8 million and the Nile Delta governorate of Beheira with 3.7 million voters.
The results are scheduled to be announced on April 2 unless there is a run-off vote, which would take place on April 24-26, but this appears unlikely.
Eighteen thousand judges will supervise and monitor the voting taking place over three days, with 110,000 administrative employees and 59 million eligible voters.
“The real success for the elections process will be to witness no queues,” said Salah Soliman, an elections systems expert.
The National Elections Authority said it had authorized 54 local NGOs to monitor the elections, as well as 15 international, African and Arab organizations.
Officials said 47.5 percent of eligible voters participated in the 2014 election when El-Sisi’s sole challenger was Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the Egyptian Popular Current.
Sabahi said in a tweet: “No doubt, my vote goes to the man who saved Egypt and made it in a different state than Libya, Syria and Yemen …”