Egypt election extended by a day after low turnout

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The level of turnout will be decisive in giving legitimacy to the winner

Polling in Egypt's presidential election has been extended for a third day after low turnout.

Polls were due to close at 22:00 (19:00 GMT) on Tuesday, but have now been extended to Wednesday, the Egyptian election commission said.

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.

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.

Voting was extended for an extra hour on Tuesday, which was also declared a public holiday, in an effort to boost turnout.

Analysis, by Kevin Connolly, BBC News, Cairo

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, along with the interim government, the official media and Egypt's powerful army have been acting for months as though this election was a formality with victory for him inevitable.

They may have overdone it to an extent which has alienated some Egyptians - and left even those who like Mr Sisi not seeing much point in voting.

At many polling stations soldiers on security duty have outnumbered voters and others have seen no voters at all for hours.

Extending voting into a third day might look a little desperate - but it's tantamount to an official admission that turnout has been worryingly low for the authorities.

A win for Mr Sisi on a very low turnout would damage his authority as he takes office…..It would be particularly embarrassing for him to secure fewer than 13 million votes. That was the number recorded by Mohammed Morsi the elected Islamist President whose removal from office was led by Mr Sisi last year when he was still serving in the army.

Election officials also said they would enforce a fine of over 500 Egyptian pounds (£42; $72) for non-voting.

Egypt's election commission said the extra day of voting was to "allow citizens who could not cast their ballots because of residence restrictions" to participate in the elections.

An election official added that part of the reason for the low turnout was the unusually hot weather on Tuesday.

Observers from Mr Sabahi's campaign estimated that turnout on Monday was 10-15% and even less on Tuesday.

Tight security

The election is being held amid tight security, but voting on Monday passed off without major incidents.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Mr Sisi cast his vote shortly after polls opened on Monday
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
His sole challenger is left-wing Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the election in 2012
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The election is being held amid heavy security because of the threat of attacks by militants
Image source, AP
Image caption,
Former army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win by a wide margin

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.

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 now on trial on a raft of charges, including murder.

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.