Egypt began the second of a three-day presidential election with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expected to coast to victory.
Arguing that voters in Egypt, one of the most populous Muslim countries in the world, are “not ready” for greater choice, Sisi reportedly arrested or intimidated potential opponents out of running.
The former military leader seized the presidency after a popular uprising overthrew Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the first democratically elected president, in 2014.
Since then, he has overseen what human rights group say is an unprecedented crackdown on dissent that has led to the detention of tens of thousands of people.
He has also faced an insurgency by jihadist militants based in the Sinai Peninsula, who have killed hundreds of security personnel and civilians in attacks.
Reuters notes that Sisi is expected to cruise to “an easy victory, after authorities urged people to cast their ballots to provide a strong mandate for the former military commander.”
Moreover, some provincial governments are offering public services improvements ranging from new playgrounds to improved sanitation systems to incentivized Egyptians to vote as part of the Sisi administration’s efforts to bolster the president’s claim of widespread support, points out the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Sisi faces just one challenger, who is expected to barely register against the incumbent, whom he supports. Critics have slammed the election as a charade after more serious challengers were forced to step down.
Egyptian authorities hope that three days of voting will be enough to produce a decent turnout for Sisi. The president still has many supporters, but his austerity measures in recent years and a fierce crackdown on security have eroded some support.
Despite the criticism, Egypt’s election commission contends that the race will be free and fair.
The polls opened on Monday. In 2014, Sisi earned an estimated 97 percent of the vote with less than half of eligible Egyptians voting despite the three-day election.
Following his 2014 modus operandi, Sisi is reportedly campaigning on a platform of “stability.”
Unrest has engulfed Egypt since the popular uprising known as the “Arab Spring” forced long-time President Hosni Mubarak out of office in 2011.
The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) has also established a foothold in the country.