Cairo: Egyptians today voted for a new president in an election expected to give a landslide victory to the ex-army chief who ousted the country’s first democratically-elected leader and crushed his Islamist
The two-day election is the first since the frontrunner Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, a move that unleashed the bloodiest violence in Egypt’s recent history.
Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is boycotting the vote, as are revolutionary youths who fear Sisi is an autocrat in the making.
But the 59-year-old retired field marshall is expected to trounce his sole rival, leftist Hamdeen Sabbahi, amid widespread calls for stability.
Sisi himself voted minutes after polling opened today amid a throng of jostling reporters and supporters. About 53 million people are eligible to vote.
“The entire world is watching us, how Egyptians are writing history and their future today and tomorrow,” Sisi said.
“Egyptians must be reassured that tomorrow will be very beautiful and great,” he said, as supporters shook his hand and kissed his cheeks.
Many view the vote as a referendum on stability versus the freedoms promised by the Arab Spring-inspired popular uprising that ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Since the revolution, the country of 86 million people has been rocked by sporadic unrest and a tanking economy.
Mubarak’s successor, Morsi, lasted one year in office, winning Egypt’s first democratic presidential poll only to quickly alienate many who held mass rallies demanding his resignation.
“We need someone who speaks in a determined and strong way. The Egyptian people are frightened by this and respect those who are like this,” said Milad Yusef, a 29-year-old lawyer waiting to vote in Cairo.
Yusef said he had voted for Sabbahi in the 2012 election that Morsi won, but that he would now back Sisi.
“We need someone strong, a military man,” he said.
Sisi has said “true democracy” would take a couple of decades, and suggested he would not tolerate protests disrupting the economy.
He also pledged to eliminate the Brotherhood, which won every election following Mubarak’s overthrow after being banned for decades.