Enthusiasm wanes on third day of Egypt’s presidential vote

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Enthusiasm appeared to have waned on the third day of Egypt’s presidential election on Wednesday as the country concluded a vote set to give Abdel Fattah El-Sisi a second successive term in power.

The queues in front of many polling stations were shorter on Wednesday morning as many voters had already cast their ballot on the first two days of voting.

The focus was on turnout, with pro-state media repeatedly calling on the almost 60 million eligible voters to take part “regardless of whom they are going to vote for.” El-Sisi won almost 97 percent of the vote in 2014 but less than half of eligible Egyptians voted.

El-Sisi is virtually unopposed and faced little challenge from the only other candidate, Mussa Mustafa Mussa, who is considered to be an admirer of the president.

El-Sisi has been praised by supporters for protecting the country in the face of regional threats. But detractors have criticized his quashing of dissent and austerity measures with civil society suffering a crackdown.

“I didn’t have time to come in the past couple of days, so thankfully there was still another chance for me to vote,” Hassan Kamel, a 53-year-old retired military officer, told Arab News in Cairo’s upscale district of Maadi.

“I chose El-Sisi, of course. His military background and his heroics during a very tumultuous time for Egypt should be highly appreciated. He should also be given a full chance to continue his mega projects, which I believe will make Egypt a prosperous country in the future.”

These projects include the building of several new desert cities and dredging a new branch of the Suez Canal.

Official results will be announced on April 2, according to Egypt’s National Elections Authority (NEA). However, unofficial results could be released as early as Thursday.

The NEA said in a statement on Wednesday that a 500 Egyptian pounds ($28) fine would be imposed on any eligible voter who did not cast their ballot but ordinary Egyptians shrugged off the threat.

“Such measures are applicable in a number of countries around the world, and not only in Egypt,” the NEA said, adding that the law “must be respected.”

Several people interviewed by Arab News said that they were skeptical about the fine being implemented.

“I’m not interested in voting and I’m not going to pay even a pound. They threatened us with this fine several times over the past eight years but it has never been implemented,” said Mostafa Shamel, a 26-year-old accountant. “Let them do whatever they want to do, the whole process is farcical and nobody will be intimidated by such threats of fines.”

Young voters were largely absent from polling stations visited by Arab News, just as they were during the first two days, with mostly elderly people and women out to vote.

“They (the young) do not understand anything, they don’t want to suffer before reaping the rewards of El-Sisi’s projects,” said Ahmed Fahmy, a 65-year-old pensioner in downtown Cairo. “El-Sisi did many good things for this country, especially during the Muslim Brotherhood reign when he confronted this evil group, and we should repay him.”

In 2013, El-Sisi led the military overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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