Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is on course for a landslide election victory although there was little sign he had achieved the high turnout he sought, according to early estimates after polls closed in a three-day election.
According to Al-Ahram, 25 million Egyptians out of nearly 60 million eligible voters have cast their votes in the three-day election concluded Wednesday.
But some voters interviewed by Reuters over the first two days of polling said they had been offered money, boxes of food, and services to cast their ballots.
“I just went to vote so I can dip my finger in the paint and took the 50 pounds ($3),” a woman in Cairo’s working-class Ward estate said, declining to give her name.
Another group of women, who also declined to be named, said they had been promised bags of food containing rice and vegetable oil in exchange for votes.
The women did not say who exactly had given them money or bags of goods.
Mostafa Abdel Kader, a 35-year-old delivery man, expressed anger at some Sisi loyalists distributing food to persuade people to cast their ballots, saying he would not vote “for a box of food”.
Managers at a government financial institution gave employees half of Monday off and ordered them to vote, one employee told Reuters. Employees at the institution were told to “not come back without ink on their fingers” and had their hands inspected the next day, the employee said.
Asked for comment, the presidency spokesman said this was not a matter for the presidency to address and referred Reuters to the National Election Commission and spokespeople for the presidential campaigns.
Officials at the election commission and the government’s foreign press centre did not respond to calls and Whatsapp messages requesting comment.
The national election commission had said those who did not vote could be fined 500 Egyptian pounds ($28).
Sisi later issued a defiant statement expressing pride at the way Egyptians had conducted themselves during the election.
“The voice of the Egyptian masses will undoubtedly bear witness to the fact that our nation’s will imposes itself with a force that knows no weakness,” Sisi said on Twitter.
“The scenes of Egyptians at polling stations will remain a point of pride and honour for me and undoubted proof of the greatness of our nation that has offered the blood of its greatest sons so that we can together cross into the future.”
Hours before polls closed, the electoral commission issued a last-minute call for people to vote, hoping to boost the turnout figure that Sisi regards as vital to legitimising his victory.
On the first two days of voting, turnout was about 21 percent, according to two sources monitoring the election.
No overall figure for Wednesday was immediately available. A Western diplomat said that late on Tuesday, turnout was between 15 and 20 percent, with around 30 percent in some centres on Wednesday.
Some private television stations report that Sisi could achieve a vote share of 95 percent or more.
At the last election in 2014, turnout was 47 percent, although Sisi won 97 percent of the overall vote. Official results are due on April 2.