Candidates make final campaign pitches as military promises to secure polls
By Dominika Maslikowski
Three people died and another 58 were injured in clashes over the weekend, the Health Ministry said Saturday, while the military announced plans to beef up security for the upcoming presidential elections.
One person died in the Islamist stronghold of Fayoum after clashes broke out following Friday prayers between security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.
Another two people were killed in Cairo, state media reported, in what was the last day of campaigning before Monday and Tuesday’s voting. An improvised explosive device was detonated in Nasr City in front of al-Salam Mosque, with no reported injuries.
Violence like this weekend’s clashes, which left a total of 58 people injured, have been commonplace during Friday protests since July’s ouster of Morsi. The protests are expected to escalate as the country gets set for the presidential elections that are likely to bring a landslide victory for Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
In a statement released Friday, the Egyptian Armed Forces urged the public to cooperate with army units assigned to secure the election. Voters were also given hotline phone numbers to contact the Armed Forces and report any security problems they face in the two days of voting.
“Voters should not bring any bags or belongings during the process of voting in the polling stations, and cars and motorcycles should not be parked at the polling stations, in order to make it easy for the army units to secure the polling stations,” said the statement, published on Ahram Online.
Some 181,900 military personnel will be deployed across Egypt to coordinate with police and secure polling stations, a spokesman told local media, adding that the Armed Forces is coordinating with the Ministry of Interior and the Supreme Elections Commission, as well as with the Egyptian navy to provide security in coastal cities. Some 150,000 personnel from the Interior Ministry are also expected to provide security as El-Sisi runs against his sole opponent, Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabbahy. The United Arab Emirates also sent 15 armored vehicles to the Interior Ministry to help with security for the elections, reported state agency MENA.
Some 160,000 military personnel were deployed during January’s constitutional referendum, during which at least 10 people died.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters plan to boycott the elections and accuse the former defense minister of staging a coup against an elected leader and ordering bloody crackdowns on pro-Morsi sit-ins. The April 6 Youth Movement and the Strong Egypt Party have said they’d likewise boycott the elections. The solution is not an election that “lacks transparency, integrity and equal opportunities,” Strong Egypt Party spokesman Ahmed Imam told Aswat Masriya, adding that neither candidate is up to their expectations.
Still Egyptians are expected to turn out at the ballots in large numbers, if earlier turnout numbers from Egyptian expatriate voting is an indication. Voting for expats was extended by an extra day when the turnout beat expectations; El-Sisi won 94.5 percent of the 318,825 votes cast at embassies and consulates around the world. It was the largest turnout of any Egyptian referendum held overseas, said the Presidential Elections Committee at the time.
For many Egyptians who see El-Sisi’s victory as certain, the upcoming elections will be a chance to show their gratitude to the Armed Forces and to the former defense minister for stepping in to remove Morsi.
Both candidates put in a final effort on Friday to persuade voters before the mandatory two-day campaign silence. El-Sisi made a statement and gave an interview broadcast on five satellite channels on Friday, congratulating expatriates on participating in the elections, while El-Sisi supporters gathered at two small rallies in Tahrir Square and Dokki. Sabbahy’s campaign held a rally in Abdeen Square in downtown Cairo while the candidate gave an interview to ONTV.
The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, an Islamist coalition supporting Morsi, has called its supporters to escalate protests during the upcoming elections. Security is expected to be tight, but Egyptians seemed to have mixed feelings with some saying they’ll be staying home to avoid possible violence, and most others saying they are not worried. et