US delegation monitoring Egypt elections dance with locals

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published 28.03.2018 00:00
Updated 28.03.2018 22:00

A member of the American delegation monitoring elections in Egypt, Sasha Toperich shared a video on Wednesday, in which he and his delegation seem to have fun with the locals.

Toperich and others dance with locals in the video, with Egyptian folk music playing in the background.

Egyptians voted Wednesday on the third day of a presidential election guaranteed to give a second term to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, leaving turnout as the only contest.

Voters trickled into polling stations, even as authorities encouraged them to show up in high numbers. The election commission announced in the evening that voting was being extended by one hour, to 9:00 pm (2100 GMT).

The commission earlier warned that it would implement a law fining people who do not vote 500 pounds (about $30), saying that not voting "serves the interests of people who hate the country", state television reported.

Sisi won his first term in 2014, a year after the former army chief ousted his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against him.

He won that election with 96.9 percent of the vote, against a left-wing candidate.

This time, his serious rivals withdrew citing restrictions, were sidelined or arrested.

His sole rival is the little-known Moussa Mostafa Moussa, himself a Sisi supporter.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail urged voters to participate, saying on Tuesday it "is a national duty for all citizens".

State television showed voters at different polling stations and played patriotic music.

At some polling stations, voters were granted free meals. AFP was unable to verify the source of the donations.

At a press conference, an election commission official, Mahmud al-Sherif, said there had been no violations of Egypt's election law.

Some 60 million people in Egypt, the most populated Arab country, were registered to vote on March 26, 27, and 28. Official results are expected on April 2.

In 2014, about 37 percent of voters participated in the two-day election, prompting authorities to add a third day to obtain a final participation rate of 47.5 percent.

Opposition groups had called for a boycott of this week's election which they labelled a facade.

There were no presidential debates and Sisi himself did not appear at any official campaign events, although he spoke at a number of ceremonies.

In an interview days ahead of the vote, Sisi said he had wished there were more candidates, denying any role in sidelining them.

At a speech before the vote he also called for a high turnout.

"I need you because the journey is not over," Sisi told a mostly female audience. "I need every lady and mother and sister, please, I need the entire world to see us in the street" voting.

Morsi's removal had ushered in a deadly crackdown that killed and jailed hundreds of Islamists.

A jihadist insurgency since has killed hundreds of policemen and civilians.

The Islamic State group's Egyptian affiliate, which has carried out a number of deadly attacks, has threatened to target election infrastructure.

On Saturday, two policemen were killed in a car bomb targeting the provincial head of security for the northern Alexandria governorate. The security chief was unharmed.

Egyptian cities, especially Cairo, have been flooded with banners showing Sisi and messages of support from business owners. Posters vowing support for Moussa, 65, are rarely seen.

While still popular, Sisi has embarked on tough economic reforms that have been welcomed by foreign investors but dented his popularity at home.

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