Egypt: Few voters cast ballots on third day of voting

Low turnout likely to rob the all-but-certain winner, former army chief Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, of the overwhelming show of public support he sought in the vote.
A soldier and policeman wait for voters at a polling station in the El Sayda Zeinab area on the third day of voting in the Egyptian presidential election in Cairo on Wednesday. Voting in Egypt's presidential election was slow on Wednesday after polling was extended for a third day in an attempt to boost turnout, raising questions about the level of support for the man forecast to win, former army chief Abdel Fattah El Sisi. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / El Sisi
A soldier and policeman wait for voters at a polling station in the El Sayda Zeinab area on the third day of voting in the Egyptian presidential election in Cairo on Wednesday. Voting in Egypt's presidential election was slow on Wednesday after polling was extended for a third day in an attempt to boost turnout, raising questions about the level of support for the man forecast to win, former army chief Abdel Fattah El Sisi. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / El Sisi

CAIRO // Egyptian authorities scrambled to rescue the country’s presidential election from the embarrassment of low voter turnout, but few people trickled to the polls on Wednesday even after the balloting was extended for a third day.

A low turnout will likely rob the all-but-certain winner, former army chief Abdel-Fattah El Sisi, of the overwhelming show of public support he sought in the vote.

Turnout is key for Mr El Sisi, because he is looking to prove to critics at home and abroad that his removal last July of the nation’s first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, reflected the will of the people.

Only a handful of voters or none at all were at polling centers in three districts toured by reporters on Wednesday morning. TV Images beamed live from more than a dozen locations across Egypt showed very few voters at polling centers. In some cases, none.

Opponents say the lack of enthusiasm at the polls reflects deep discontent with Mr El Sisi, not just among his Islamist foes but also among a broader section of the public that says he has no solutions for Egypt’s woes and fears he will return Egypt to the autocratic ways of Hosni Mubarak.

Mr El Sisi’s supporters in the Egyptian media – which have been cheerleaders for the retired field marshal since his toppling of Mr Morsi – have been in a panic. Political talk show hosts and newscasters have been berating people to vote, warning that otherwise the Brotherhood will be encouraged to step up its challenge to the new government.

Prominent TV talk show host Amr Adeeb angrily said that by not voting, Egyptians might as well “go directly to the prison and return Mohammed Morsi to power.”

The abrupt decision by the election commission on Tuesday to add another day of voting also raised complaints that authorities were tipping the playing field in Mr El Sisi’s favour.

US-based Democracy International, which has been observing the vote, said on Wednesday that the extension “raises more questions about the independence of the election commission, the impartiality of the government, and the integrity of Egypt’s electoral process”.

It said its observer teams outside of Cairo had ended their mission as scheduled on Tuesday, meaning they would not be observing polls on Wednesday. Some other international monitoring teams also left the country, since they had only planned for two days of voting, though EU monitors continued to observe.

* Associated Press

Published: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM

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