El-Sisi urges big turnout in Egypt presidential poll

Ahram Online , Monday 28 Apr 2014

Former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi calls for an 'unprecedented' turnout in a presidential election he is expected to win easily, while Islamists call for a boycott

El -Sisi
Presidential hopeful ex-minister of defense Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo courtesy of El-Sisi official campaign)

Egypt's former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Sunday called for an "unprecedented" turnout in a May presidential poll he is highly tipped to win.

El-Sisi, who recently resigned from his posts as head of the military and defence minister, will compete for the country's top post with only one rival -- leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election.

El-Sisi has become a cult figure since he led Mohamed Morsi's ouster last summer amid millions-strong street protests against the latter's year in office. His electoral victory is deemed a foregone conclusion as many Egyptians view him as the only man capable of restoring stability following more than three years of political turmoil since the 2011 uprising.

El-Sisi urged an "unprecedented turnout in the forthcoming presidential election for the sake of Egypt and regardless of who will win," according to an official statement by his campaign team. He made these remarks during a meeting with investors in the tourism industry.

The retired field marshal blamed religious radicalism for crippling the country's vital tourism industry.

"The tourism sector has been continuously harmed over the past 50 years as a result of a religious discourse unrelated to the understanding and developments of the time," he said.

A mounting Islamist insurgency, which gathered pace after Morsi's removal in July, has killed nearly 500 people, mostly policemen and troops.

The campaign is reminiscent of an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s that took then president Hosni Mubarak years to quell. This included a 1997 bloodbath in the temple city of Luxor, when extremists killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians.

El-Sisi, who pledged to rescue the country's flagging economy and fight terrorism, said that restoring security needed a boost in the country's stagnant economy.

"The [country's] economy is one of the most important obstacles facing society, and all other problems are related to it," he said.

"Improving the security system needs huge economic resources."

Despite riding on a wave of popularity among many Egyptians, his opponents, mostly in the Islamist camp, view him as the orchestrator of a bloody coup that toppled Egypt's first democratically elected leader, Morsi.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, and many other Islamist parties opposed to his ouster, have called for a boycott of the forthcoming election, slamming it as "a farce."

Earlier in April, an Egyptian court ordered a ban on the Brotherhood from running in the upcoming election.

The move is part of a sustained crackdown waged by authorities against the Islamist movement, once Egypt's largest and best organised political group. It has won every election since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011, but is now blacklisted as a terrorist organisation.

Hundreds of Brotherhood members and other Islamist sympathisers have been killed in the clampdown campaign and thousands of others thrown behind bars.

The presidential election will take place on 26/27 May.


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