About 60 million Egyptians began casting their ballots today, and continue for three consecutive days, to elect the country’s next president, in a race pitting the incumbent president Abdel Fatah Al Sisi against El Ghad party chairperson Moussa Moustafa Moussa.
The 2018 Presidential Election is the third poll to take place in Egypt since the January 2011 revolution. Egyptian expatriates have already voted on March 16-18 in 124 countries. About 60 million people in Egypt, the most populated Arab country, are also expected to vote on March 26, 27, and 28. Official results are expected on April 2.
They will have the choice between Sisi and Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who registered right before the close date for applications, saving the election from being a one-horse race.
Moussa, who has denied he is a “puppet,” had been leading a Sisi re-election campaign until the moment he registered as a candidate.Other opponents have been sidelined, including former military chief of staff Sami Anan who was detained in January shortly after announcing his candidacy.
The military said the reserve general broke the law by illegally declaring his candidacy.
In an interview broadcast on Egyptian television last week, 63-year-old Sisi said the lack of serious opponents was not his doing.
“I wish we had one, or two, or three, or 10 of the best people and you choose however you want,” he said.
Sisi had won his first term in 2014, a year after the former army chief ousted his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi following mass protests demanding his resignation.
In that election, Sisi faced Hamdeen Sabbahi, an established left-wing politician much better known than Moussa. Still, Sisi won 96.9 percent of the vote.
With Sisi’s win effectively guaranteed, the authorities’ concern this year would be turnout to enhance the legitimacy of the vote.
Sisi has stressed in his pre-election appearances the importance of voters turning out in large numbers.
In 2014, about 37 percent of voters participated in the two-day election, prompting authorities to add a third day to obtain a final participation rate of 47.5 percent.
It is unlikely this year that even that 37 percent will be achieved, said analyst Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed.
“The result is known in advance, and this does not encourage Egyptians to go out and vote,” he said.
During the campaign, Sisi appeared frequently on television and in newspapers, hailing factories and infrastructure projects built in the past four years.
Egyptian cities, especially Cairo, are flooded with banners featuring photographs of Sisi and messages of support from business owners. Posters vowing support for Moussa, 65, are rarely seen.
But with an economic crisis and gruelling price hikes — and the return of a regime seen as at least as authoritative as that of Mubarak — support for Sisi appears to be slightly in decline.