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Egypt extends presidential vote

By Agence France-Presse in Cairo | China Daily | Updated: 2014-05-29 07:07

Egypt's presidential election was extended into a third day on Wednesday due to low turnout in the first election since Islamist Mohamed Morsi was overthrown last year.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the retired field marshal who toppled Morsi, is expected to win easily, but his campaign had hoped for a large turnout as a decisive show of support.

Election officials said the voting had been extended due to hot weather during the daytime, which they say had "resulted in a crowding of voters during the evening hours".

 Egypt extends presidential vote

Egyptians wait to cast their vote inside a polling station in Cairo on the second day of Egypt's presidential election on Tuesday. Marwan Naamani / Agence France-Presse

However, Islamists and supporters of Morsi had urged a boycott of the elections, which they claim are illegitimate.

After reports of meager numbers at the polling stations on Monday, Sisi's backers and sympathetic media harangued people to go and vote.

Electoral commission chief Abdel Aziz Salman put the turnout by the end of the second day at about 37 percent of the electorate of 53 million, the official MENA News Agency reported.

That is well below the almost 52 percent who voted in the 2012 election won by Morsi.

Process questioned

As polling closed on Tuesday, Sisi's sole rival, the leftist Hamdeen Sabbahi, slammed the ballot extension, saying it raised "questions ... about the integrity of the process".

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, subjected to a police crackdown that has killed hundreds of its supporters, called for a boycott and said it would not recognize the outcome.

Key activists behind the 2011 uprising that ousted long-time strongman President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 took the same position. They fear Sisi is an autocrat in the making.

Some Cairo polling stations were deserted on Tuesday morning, with many would-be voters watching from the sidelines. "I don't want to be part of those responsible for all those people who died," Tarek Salim told AFP at a Cairo cafe.

Another abstainer, Diaa Hussein, complained there was no real choice, saying: "Sisi didn't leave a chance for anyone else to win."

Gamal Abdel Gawad, an analyst at the American University of Cairo, said the extension was unnecessary.

"When the result of an election is already known, there is very little incentive for voters to come out and vote."

'World is watching'

As he cast his ballot on Monday, Sisi issued a personal plea for a large turnout in the elections.

"The entire world is watching us, how Egyptians are writing history and their future today and tomorrow," he said.

The rival candidates have portrayed the vote as a choice between stability and the freedoms promised by the region's pro-democracy uprisings.

(China Daily 05/29/2014 page12)

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