CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt's three-day presidential election ended Wednesday with little sign that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi would achieve the high turnout he wants, although some voters report receiving payments the polls.
A few hours before the end of Wednesday's polls, the electoral commission issued a last-minute call for election, hoping to increase voter turnout that Sisi sees as crucial to the legitimacy of his predicted victory.
Lasheen Ibrahim, chairman of the National Electoral Commission, told the Egyptians on national television: "Explain to the world that Egypt is always writing history because you are the pharaohs, the makers of civilization, who astonished the world." 1
Sisi is almost unchallenged after the other serious candidates have either been arrested or intimidated, making voter turnout the most important measure of his popularity with the Egyptians, who are generally expected to grant him a second four-year term.
In the first two election days, voter turnout was 21 percent, according to two sources watching the election.
There was no total number on Wednesday, but Reuters reporters in Cairo and other cities found that numbers in the polling stations had dropped.
A Western diplomat visiting four provinces reported that he saw no ballot boxes more than half full and no long lines in polling stations.
Yesterday's turnout was between 15 and 20 percent, the diplomat told Reuters, claiming anonymity, with about 30 percent in some centers on Wednesday.
In Alexandria, an election observer said that three polling stations had 26.6, 32 and 33.75 percent by late afternoon.
In the last elections in 2014, the turnout was 47 percent, although Sisi won 97 percent of the total vote.
Sisi said that he wanted more opponents, but instead, only one person was dismissed as a fool. Sisi said he had nothing to do with opposition candidates and urged people to vote in large numbers. The electoral commission promised that the vote would be free and fair.
In Cairo, it was difficult for some voters to show enthusiasm.
Mostafa Abdel Kader, a 35-year-old delivery man, said he had not voted because there was no choice and he was "dissatisfied with the country's situation."
He expressed his anger at some Sisi loyalists who distributed food to persuade people to vote and said he would not vote "for a box of food".
Hussain al-Sayed, a 53-year-old tailor, agreed, albeit without great enthusiasm. "Sisi will win anyway, there's nobody else … we hope he's right, if we do not see any change, our kids will do that."
Sisi, who led the military coup of the freely elected Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013, promised security and stability and revived the economy following the riots following a 2011 popular uprising.
Some voters surveyed by Reuters during the first two days of the survey said they had been offered money, boxes of food, and services to make their ballots.
"I have never voted before, and I had no intention at this time," said a woman in Kairo's workers' residence.
"I just went to the polls so I could dip my finger in the paint and take the 50 pounds ($ 3)," she said, refusing to give her name for fear of government reprisals.
Another group of women, who also refused to be named, said they had been promised bags of rice and vegetable oil in exchange for votes.
"They told me that if I choose and show them (the ink on) my finger, I'll get a bag," said one, who also did not want to be named.
The women did not say who exactly gave them money or bags of goods.
Managers of a state-owned financial institution freed workers for half of Monday and ordered them to vote, one employee told Reuters. Employees of the facility were instructed to "not come back without ink on their fingers" and get their hands checked the next day, the employee said.
When asked to comment, the Presidency spokesman said that this was not a presidency matter that addressed and referred Reuters to the National Electoral Commission and presidential campaign speakers.
Officials from the Electoral Commission and the government's foreign press center did not respond to calls and whatsapp messages calling for comment.
Some people needed no incentive to vote. Noha al-Nemr, who cast votes in Cairo's civic Mohandiseen district, said, "Of course, I voted for Sisi because it's enough that his family and I live in safety – even when there is need."
Incentives for voting have been made more public in other areas.
Governor Nadia Abdou told private television station Mehwar Monday in Beheira province, "Whichever municipality has the most votes, we will repair their water, sewage and electricity … We will reward those who came in large numbers . "
Pro-government media failed to vote as a betrayal of Egypt.
Hosts of state radio programs told the audience that if they did not vote, they "betrayed the blood of the martyrs on Sinai", a nod to a military campaign against militant Islamists the northern Sinai Peninsula.
Letter from John Davison; Editing by Giles Elgood