Election extended in Egypt
Egypt’s presidential election was extended by a day on Tuesday in an effort to boost lower than expected turnout that threatened to undermine the credibility of the frontrunner, former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.After Sisi called for record voter participation, low turnout would be seen at home and abroad as a setback for the field marshal who toppled Egypt’s first freely elected leader, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi.The two-day vote was originally due to conclude on Tuesday at 10 p.m but was extended until Wednesday to allow the “greatest number possible” to vote, state media reported.Sisi faces only one challenger in the election: the leftist Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in a 2012 vote won by Mursi and was seen as a long-shot in the race against an army man who became popular after ending Mursi’s divisive year in office.”I was going to vote for Sisi because he will be the president anyway, and because I was grateful to him for removing the Brotherhood from power,” said Hani Ali, 27, who works in the private sector. “But now I won’t go as I felt people are unhappy with the chaos of the past months and are not as pro-Sisi as I thought.”Lines outside polling stations in various parts of Cairo were short, and in some cases no voters could be seen on Tuesday, the second day of voting that had already been extended once, with polls originally due to close at 9.00 p.m.Showing signs of panic, the military-backed government had launched a determined effort to get out the vote, declaring Tuesday a public holiday.The justice ministry said Egyptians who did not vote would be fined, and train fares were waived in an effort to boost the numbers. Local media loyal to the government chided the public for not turning out in large enough numbers.One prominent TV commentator said people who did not vote were “traitors, traitors, traitors”.Al-Azhar, a state-run body that is Egypt’s highest Islamic authority, said failure to vote was “to disobey the nation”, state TV reported. Pope Tawadros, head of Egypt’s Coptic church, also appeared on state TV to urge voters to head to the polls.Turnout in the 2012 election won by Mursi was 52 percent, a level this vote must exceed for Sisi to enjoy full political legitimacy, said Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at Cairo University.Were it to fall short, then he will have failed “to read the political scene and his miscalculation has to be corrected through reconciliation”, he said. Sisi had called for a turnout of 40 million, or 80 percent of the electorate. Distancing Sisi from the vote extension, his campaign announced he had objected to the decision.