Egyptians head to polls in second day of presidential vote


Cairo (Reuters) – Egyptians voted on Monday in the second and penultimate day of a presidential election in which Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to sweep to a third, six-year term amid a grinding economic crisis and war on Egypt’s border in Gaza.

Some Egyptians have shown little interest or knowledge about the election, though authorities and commentators on tightly controlled local media have been urging them to vote out of national duty.

Crowds of voters, some of them arriving on buses, have appeared at polling stations where patriotic music is blasted through loudspeakers, though other polling stations observed by Reuters reporters appeared quiet.

“Voting is our duty and it is the least we can do for country especially during these critical times and with the developments happening around the world,” said Passant Tarek, a 27-year-old dentist casting her ballot in Suez, 125 km (78 miles) east of Cairo.

Critics see the election as a sham after a decade-long crackdown on dissent. The government’s media body has called it a step towards political pluralism.

Two Reuters reporters saw voters being bussed into polling stations, and one saw bags containing flour, rice and other basic commodities being handed out to people who showed ink stains on their fingers indicating they had voted.

Plainclothes police have been heavily deployed. The National Election Authority said turnout on the first day of voting on Sunday had been high.

Egypt’s fast-growing population of 104 million is struggling with soaring prices and other economic pressures, though headline inflation has dipped slightly from record levels, reaching 34.6% on Sunday.

Some voters say that, while they had to find ways to adjust to rising prices, it was only Sisi and the military that could provide security.

Some also complain that the state has prioritised costly mega-projects while taking on more debt, though others express admiration for the vast network of roads and bridges built in recent years and a new capital city under construction in the desert.

Voting runs from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m. (0700-1900 GMT) and concludes on Tuesday, with results due to be announced on Dec. 18.

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