On Friday night, Egypt’s popular presidential hopeful, ex-military commander Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, urged Egyptians to flock to polling stations on Monday and Tuesday in their millions, saying that elections are a feat Egyptians must undertake to build their future.
Under Egyptian law, Saturday and Sunday will see a halt in public campaigning of any kind for 48 hours prior to the opening of the polls.
In the brief televised address on Friday, El-Sisi made particular plea for young people and women to vote, regardless of their choice, insisting that the love for Egypt binds Egyptians whatever their differences.
“The significance of the ballot box is that there is a consensus on a national level that reflects the strength of the will to depart to the future,” he stated. He gave the example of voting by Egyptian expatriates abroad last week – in which he won 95 percent of votes cast – to show that Egyptians have a will and are moving to achieve it.
The former defence minister stressed that state institutions will exert maximum effort to ensure the safety of voters.
The message followed a three-hour recorded interview with El-Sisi, aired by four local satellite channels (Sada Al-Balad, Al-Qahera Wal Nas, Al-Mehwar, Al-Tahrir) where he spoke of a myriad of issues as he responded to questions posed by eight interviewers.
In the interview, El-Sisi expressed several times his wish that at least 40 million Egyptians come out to vote in the presidential poll.
Over 26 million Egyptians voted in the country’s 2012 elections, just over half of registered voters. El-Sisi said in the interview that he would like to see a full turnout of registered voters next week.
During the interview, El-Sisi vowed he will make real changes that would see Egypt get out of its current economic and security crisis. He said he would not wait for parliament to be formed in order to issue the legislation needed to implement his plans.
“Will the Egyptians wait that long?” he asked.
Reiterating his former antipathy to protests, El-Sisi said that the current phase “can’t bear” protests, saying other priorities, like the economy and poverty, take precedence. He added however that freedom of speech must not be suspended.
The popular former military chief also spoke about his motivation in running for Egypt’s top job, saying that he was called upon by Egyptians to do so and wants to serve Egypt, and is not looking for power or authority.
“I am not far from you; I work this way, I meet people and talk with them I won’t be at the top and let others do the work,” he told his interviewers, dismissing doubts he will be surrounded by cronies.
“No one will be able to take anything [favours] from me. I will take from them but for Egypt not for myself,” he said, claiming such an attitude is what made him popular in the army.
El-Sisi also repeated his plea for Egyptians to choose their representatives with care in parliamentary election. In a striking simile, he likened the choice to the care expended when approving a daughter’s husband.
El-Sisi’s only challenger, Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, attended his final electoral rally in downtown Cairo on Friday evening, in the attendance of thousands of supporters, including many public figures.
El-Sisi, who led the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi last July after mass protests against the Islamist leader’s rule, is widely expected to win the election by a comfortable majority.