Despite extending polling for the third day, the voter turnout in Egypt has remained low, threatening the credibility of claims made by former defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the front-runner in the country's elections, that Egyptians would readily come forward to vote in the ongoing elections.
Egyptian authorities declared a holiday on Tuesday, waived off train fares and even warned the public that they could be fined 500 Egyptian pounds ($70) if they refrain from voting, but the strategies have not had the desired effect on voter turnout, which remained flat on the third day, reports said. The elections, which were originally scheduled to be completed in two days, were being aggressively promoted by Sisi, who has only one major contender in Hamdeen Sabahi, a leftist former lawmaker who came third in the 2012 elections that gave power to former President Mohammed Morsi.
"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," Hani Ali, 27, an executive in the private sector, told Reuters. "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."
Over the past few weeks, authorities have sentenced to death several members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has called the country's judicial process a sham, according to Bloomberg. Observers of Egypt, which has been in turmoil for the past three years, expect to see a definitive victory for Sisi, who reportedly had expected at least 80 percent of the country's 53 million eligible citizens to cast their vote.
The new administration, which will take power nearly a year after the ouster of Morsi, will be faced with the challenge of restoring the nation's economy that has been left in tatters after months of political strife, and of lifting more than 85 million people above the poverty line.
“They keep thinking of ways to make a mockery of us before the world,” Hossam Samir, an unemployed university graduate who refused to vote, said according to Bloomberg, referring to the decision to extend polls to the third day. “They’re trying to force me to voice the opinion they want to hear when my opinion is that I don’t like either candidate. Is this the democracy they’re talking about setting up here?”
Michael Wahid Hanna, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation in New York, said, according to Bloomberg: “The authorities are acting in a panicked and amateurish fashion in response to projected low voter turnout,” adding that voters’ apprehension in this year’s election could also be attributed to fatigue and a lack of options to choose from among the electoral candidates. Sisi has reportedly won more than 90 percent of the Egyptian expatriate vote so far.