Al-Sisi set to win in Egyptian elections
Egyptians voted today in an election expected to install former 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.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, which had declared it "the election of the presidency of blood", issued a statement saying their call for a boycott had been widely observed. However, the interior minister said turnout was good.
The government says the Brotherhood is a terrorist organisation that has turned to violence - a charge it denies.
Eleven Brotherhood supporters were arrested while staging a protest in Alexandria, Egypt's second city, security officials said.
Sabahi's campaign alleged "systematic violations" by police and army, and said three campaign delegates had been detained. It planned to complain to the body overseeing the vote.
As Al-Sisi voted in Cairo, he waved to supporters, who shouted "President, President!"
"Today Egyptians are going to write their history," said Al-Sisi, who hopes a big turnout will give him a strong mandate.The election is the seventh vote or referendum since the 2011 uprising that raised hopes for democracy. But three years on, with democracy seen by some as an experiment that failed, many Egyptians say stability comes first.