Egypt extends presidential vote after low turnout reports

Egypt extends presidential vote after low turnout reports
Supporters of Egypt's former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hold flags as they gather in Tahrir square in Cairo May 27, 2014. Sisi is expected to emerge as Egypt's next president, with the military-backed government seeking to boost turnout by declaring a holiday and extending voting into a third day.

CAIRO - Egypt's presidential election extended into a third day Wednesday, reportedly due to low turnout in the first election since Islamist Mohamed Morsi was overthrown last year. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the retired field marshall who toppled Morsi, is expected to easily win, but his campaign had hoped for a large turnout as a decisive show of support.

After reports of a meagre numbers at the polling stations on Monday, Sisi's backers and sympathetic media harangued people to go and vote as Islamists had urged a boycott.

Electoral commission chief Abdel Aziz Salman put the turnout by the end of the second day at about 37 per cent of the 53 million electorate, the official MENA news agency reported.

That is well below the almost 52 per cent who voted in the 2012 election won by Morsi.

As polling closed on Tuesday, Sisi's sole rival, the leftist Hamdeen Sabbahi, slammed the ballot extension, saying it raised "questions... about the integrity of the process".

The extension into Wednesday was made to "give a chance to the largest possible number of voters to cast their ballots," said an electoral official.

The organisers of the vote said they extended the election because of a "heatwave that resulted in a crowding of voters during the evening hours".

Sisi's campaign also filed a complaint against the extension.

"We had hoped the commission would extend voting each day after 9:00 pm because it is very hot," Sisi's spokeswoman Mona el-Kouedi told AFP.

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