- Sisi is set to seek a new six-year term
- The election followed a long crackdown on dissent
- Voting in three days, results on December 18
CAIRO, Dec 10 (Reuters) – Egyptians went to the polls on Sunday for a presidential election in which Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is poised to take power for a third term, as the country struggles with an economic crisis and war on its border. Gaza
A victory would give Sisi a six-year term in office, in which immediate priorities include curbing near-record inflation, managing chronic foreign currency shortages and averting an escalation in the conflict between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
Voting will be held from 9 am to 9 pm (0700-1900 GMT), spread over three days, and the results will be announced on December 18.
As voting began Sunday morning, small crowds gathered at polling stations in Cairo, where images of Sisi have proliferated in the weeks leading up to the election. Riot police were stationed at the entrances to Tahrir Square in the center of the capital.
Critics see the election as a sham after a decade of repression of dissent. The government’s media outlet called it a step towards political pluralism.
Three candidates qualified to stand against CC in the election, none of them high profile. The most prominent contender called off his run in October, saying officials and thugs had targeted his supporters — allegations the National Election Commission dismissed.
Officials and commentators have been urging Egyptians to vote on tightly controlled local media, although some said they were unsure when the election would be held in the days leading up to the vote. Others said voting would make little difference.
“I knew elections were coming, but I didn’t know when. I only knew because of Sisi’s massive lobbying on the streets,” said Aya Mohamed, a 35-year-old marketing executive.
“I feel indifferent about elections because there will be no real change,” he said.
As military leader, Sisi ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, and was elected president the following year with 97% of the vote.
Since then, he has overseen a crackdown that has engulfed liberal and left-wing activists and Islamists. Rights groups say tens of thousands have been imprisoned.
Sisi and his supporters say the crackdown is necessary to stabilize Egypt and counter Islamist extremism. He has presented himself as a bulwark of stability as conflict erupted in Libya on Egypt’s borders and earlier this year in Sudan and Gaza.
Sisi was re-elected in 2018 with 97% of the vote.
However, economic pressures have become a dominant issue for Egypt’s fast-growing population of 104 million, with some complaining the government has prioritized expensive mega-projects while the government takes on more debt and citizens struggle with rising prices.
“Enough of projects and infrastructure, we want prices to go down, poor people to eat and people to live,” said Imad Atef, a vegetable seller in Cairo.
Election campaigning has been low-key, with Sisi following a routine schedule of arms trade fairs, road surveys and taking exams for candidates to join military and police academies in the week leading up to the vote.
Some analysts say the election, originally expected in early 2024, has been brought forward so economic changes – including devaluation of the already weak currency – could be implemented after the vote.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday it was in talks with Egypt to agree additional financing under an existing $3 billion loan program, stalled by delays in the sale of government assets and a promised shift to a more flexible exchange rate.
“All indicators suggest that after the election, we’re going to move very quickly to continue with IMF reform,” said Hani Genena, chief economist at investment bank Cairo Financial Holding.
Reporting by Farah Chafan, Sarah El Safty and Saeed Sheesha Writing by Aidan Lewis Editing by Helen Popper and David Goodman
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