Abdel Fatah Sisi poised to win presidency as Egyptians vote

Egyptians voted on Monday in an election expected to install army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi as president, with supporters brushing aside concerns about political freedom and hailing him as the strong leader the country needs.

Three years after the historic uprising against Hosni Mubarak, the vote is set to restore a pattern of rule by men from the military after Sisi toppled Egypt’s first freely elected leader, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Voters lined up to cast ballots at polling stations guarded by soldiers in face masks and armed with assault rifles. Sisi faces only one challenger in the two-day vote: the leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi.

‘We see Sisi as a real man. Egypt likes a strong man,’ said 64-year-old Saber Habib, clenching his fist to make his point as he waited to vote in the city of Suez, east of Cairo.

‘We want the country to move forward and for the people to have bread,’ said Habib, a contractor.

Widely regarded as Egypt’s de facto leader since he toppled Mursi after mass protests, Sisi, 59, faces manifold challenges including an economy in crisis and a campaign of Islamist violence that has spiralled since he overthrew Mursi. To the Islamists, he is the mastermind of a bloody coup that led to a crackdown that has killed hundreds of Mursi supporters and landed thousands more in jail. 

Secular dissidents who led the 2011 uprising against Mubarak have also been imprisoned.

At the same time, several hundred members of the security forces have been killed in a campaign of violence by radical Islamists since last July. The last year has been the bloodiest period of internal strife in Egypt’s modern history.

The Brotherhood and its allies have called for a boycott, declaring it ‘the election of the presidency of blood’. Eleven of the group’s supporters were arrested while staging a protest in Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, security officials said.

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