Middle East

Egypt election: Push for high voter turnout

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Media captionThe BBC's Orla Guerin in Cairo: "This election feels like a formality, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi looks guaranteed an easy win"

Polling in Egypt's presidential election has been extended, in an effort to effort to encourage a high turnout on the final day of voting.

A public holiday has been declared, and voters have been warned they will be fined if they do not cast a ballot.

The scale of turnout is seen as key to legitimising the winner. Former military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is the clear frontrunner.

He is standing against only one other candidate, left-winger Hamdeen Sabahi.

Unofficial results are expected hours after polls close at 22:00 (19:00 GMT).

It is the second presidential election since the 2011 revolution which toppled Hosni Mubarak.

The previous elected President, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, was deposed by Mr Sisi in July 2012 following massive opposition protests.

After polls closed on Monday, authorities announced that voting would be extended for an hour on Tuesday, which was declared a public holiday, to try to boost turnout.

Election officials said they would enforce a fine of over 500 Egyptian pounds ($72) for non-voting.

There has been no announcement from the Higher Election Commission on Monday's turnout, although Reuters news agency said the number of people casting their vote appeared lower than in previous elections.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Polling resumed on Tuesday, with a public holiday declared and voting hours extended
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The level of turnout will be decisive in giving legitimacy to the winner
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The election is being held amid heavy security because of the threat of attacks by militants
Image copyright AP
Image caption Former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win by a wide margin
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Sisi cast his vote shortly after polls opened on Monday
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption His sole challenger is left-wing Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the election in 2012

In 2012, just under 52% of the electorate voted, handing a slim victory to Mohammed Morsi.

The Associated Press news agency reported election monitoring groups as saying turnout was moderate, apart from in Islamist-dominated areas where it was low to non-existent.

"Sisi killed youths and now he is grabbing power. This is the biggest evidence that [the ousting of Mohammed Morsi] was a coup," Mohamed Gamal told AFP news agency in the pro-Morsi town of Kerdasa.

Polling stations visited by AFP in Cairo were deserted on Tuesday morning, the agency reported.

The election is being held amid tight security, with more than 250,000 troops and police deployed across the country, according to the interior ministry, amid fear of attacks by militants seeking to disrupt the polls.

Voting on Monday passed off without an major incidents.

Shortly after polls opened on the first day, Mr Sisi cast his vote at a polling station in Heliopolis, Cairo, amid a throng of reporters and spectators.

"The Egyptians are coming out to write their history and chart their future," said the 59-year-old, dressed in a dark suit and tie.

Mr Sisi appeals to Egyptians who crave stability after years of political upheaval, and anything other than an easy win for him would be a source of astonishment, says the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Cairo.

Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, banned as a "terrorist group", called for a boycott of the polls. More than 1,400 people have been killed and 16,000 detained since authorities cracked down on the movement in July.

Mr Morsi and other Brotherhood leaders are on trial on a raft of charges, including murder.

Some secular activists, including the 6 April youth movement which was prominent in the 2011 revolution, have also shunned the polls in protest at the curtailing of civil rights.

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