Wednesday marked the last of three days of voting in Egypt, in a presidential election seen as little more than a referendum on the rule of President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi.
At three polling stations across Cairo, a trickle of mostly elderly voters on Monday and Tuesday walked past heavy security, including armed soldiers and police, to get to the ballot box. At one polling station in the Giza neighbourhood of Haram, a young soldier guarded the entrance from behind a pile of sandbags, the barrel of his gun pointed at the path of incoming voters.
After an election campaign in which five of Sisi’s potential challengers were prevented from getting on the ballot, the battle in this election is for turnout. Sixty million people are eligible to vote in Egypt. Yet despite the lengthy voting period, with the polls open from 9am to 9pm everyday, voters appeared in short supply.
At a polling station in downtown Cairo on Tuesday afternoon, judge Ahmed Abdel Raoof listened to nationalist pop music as he watched over the empty room of a school that was being used as a polling station. There were no booths at any of the polling stations visited by the Guardian, meaning voters filled out their ballots in full view of others.
With voter numbers in doubt, the Egyptian authorities continued their push for a high turnout. The governor of Beheira in the Nile Delta declared that districts with the highest turnout would be rewarded with upgraded water and sanitation infrastructure. Egypt’s state news agency Mena reported that people boycotting the vote would be fined 500 EGP (roughly £20).
“I’m not going to vote, as I know the result – Sisi will win,” said Abdel-Moneim. Said, however, said he would vote for Sisi’s challenger, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who entered as a candidate at the last minute, even though his party previously endorsed Sisi. “If he wins, it’s OK, if not, it doesn’t matter. It’s not that competitive,” he said.