Are Egyptians Snubbing Sisi?

Egypt’s presidential election was supposed to end yesterday, but it was extended through tonight after voters failed to show up in the vast numbers the putative victor Abdel Fattah el-Sisi needs to claim a broad mandate. Turnout, however, still remains low:

On Wednesday, state and privately owned media loyal to Sisi put the turnout at between 37 and 46 percent of the electorate of 54 million. In a speech last week, Sisi had called for 40 million votes, or 80 percent of the electorate. The electoral commission said that over Monday and Tuesday, the scheduled two days of polling, just 37 percent of eligible voters cast ballots – a number well below the nearly 52 percent who voted in the 2012 election that brought Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi to power.

The lower turnout than Sisi had sought will sound a warning that he had failed to rally the level of popular support he hoped for after toppling Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, following street protests last year. Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday that polling stations in the capital city of Cairo and Egypt’s second city of Alexandria showed that the turnout was lower than anticipated with only a trickle of voters casting their ballots.

This lackluster showing comes despite a full-court press to draw voters to the polls:

Over the past two days, the Egyptian government has pulled out all the tricks at its disposal to boost turnout. After the first day of voting, it declared Tuesday to be a national holiday, freeing state employees to head to the ballot box. Egypt’s Transport Ministry made the trains free to make it easy for voters to travel to polling stations, and some of Cairo’s largest malls shut down early so patrons and employees could go vote. Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, meanwhile, threatened to fine registered voters who abstained from casting a vote.

The reason for voter apathy, however, may be inherent in the campaign itself. Sisi’s victory has appeared inevitable for months — he had already been meeting with foreign delegations even before the formality of the election. Moreover, the career military man ran a campaign that was almost completely absent of policy details, giving even voters inclined to support him little idea of how he would govern the country.

Jesse Rosenfield takes the pulse in the capital, finding that those who are turning out are mostly voting for Sisi:

Pro-Sisi residents in the cramped, narrow streets are welcoming as long as only their perspective is being heard. “Sisi is from the Egyptian army and the army is the best to form the government,” says 61 year old Said Shahada, who ekes out a living selling Pepsi products and is hoping for economic reforms that benefit the poor.

However, the atmosphere grows distinctly hostile when I cross the road to speak with 31-year-old construction worker, Farahat Tamer, who is boycotting the vote. Originally from Upper Egypt, he moved to the neighborhood for work six years ago and contends that few people from his home town will cast a ballot. “The regime of [ex- President Hosni] Mubarak has been taken out [but] my biggest fear is something worse is coming,” he says as Sisi supporters in the area become increasingly aggressive.