Egyptians return to vote in election run-off
Cairo (AFP) - Egyptians cast their ballots Tuesday in a first round run-off of a parliamentary vote with lawmakers firmly backing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the absence of any opposition.
Turnout for the first round of voting held in 14 of Egypt's 27 provinces last week was just 26.6 percent, and in the initial hours of polling on Tuesday there was no sign that more voters were turning out.
One polling station in the capital's central district of Dokki saw 20 people vote in the hour after polling opened at 9:00 am (0700 GMT), a polling officer said.
Among voters who had turned out were elderly people, government employees, retired bureaucrats and ex-servicemen, an AFP correspondent reported.
"I urge Egyptians to strongly participate in this important election to choose their representatives," Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said in a statement. "It's in their hands to determine the turnout."
The previous general election held in late 2011, months after the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak, saw a turnout of 62 percent in the first round.
The subsequent parliament, dominated by Islamists led by the Muslim Brotherhood, was dissolved in June 2012, days before the election of Mohamed Morsi as the country's first freely elected civilian leader.
Morsi was deposed a year later by then army chief Sisi after mass street protests against his sole year in power.
Sisi himself was elected president in May 2014 after he brutally crushed all forms of opposition -- Islamist supporters of the Brotherhood as well as several secularists and leftists.
- 'Disappointed voters' -
The latest election is widely anticipated to vote in lawmakers firmly backing Sisi in the absence of any opposition.
While the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's main opposition group for decades, has been banned from competing after it was declared a "terrorist group," several secular parties are either boycotting the vote or are badly represented.
A government crackdown targeting Morsi's supporters after his ouster has left hundreds dead in street clashes with security forces, while tens of thousands more have been jailed.
Hundreds including Morsi have been sentenced to death after speedy mass trials, which have been denounced by the United Nations.
Protests by secular and liberal youth movements, who led the uprising against Mubarak, have also been severely repressed. Several leaders of these movements have been jailed.
Sisi's supporters expect the new 596-member parliament to rubber-stamp his decisions, while experts say it will largely work on its own agenda rather than building a country now plagued by corruption and an ailing economy.
"People are disappointed after so much political turmoil. The political system must take steps to encourage voting," engineer Abdel Rahman Suweid, 60, said after casting his vote in Dokki.
Only four candidates were elected in the first round of voting, with none of the other individual candidates getting more than 50 percent of the vote.
The two-day first round run-off ends on Wednesday. The second round across 13 remaining provinces will be held on November 22-23 and a run-off, if necessary, will be held on December 1-2.