Voting in Egypt's presidential election extended due to low turnout

CAIRO - In Egypt, voting in the presidential election has been held extended to a third day - held over not by popular demand, but because hardly anyone is voting.

Egypt's government tried to entice voters Tuesday with a surprise national holiday, but turnout was still low.

It was an unexpected setback for retired Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is expected to win a landslide victory.

The outcome of this election has been known from the start but the big surprise here Monday and again Tuesday is that there were no lines outside polling stations.

Inside one polling station, it was just as quiet. Several minutes after a CBS News crew entered, the official in charge became nervous and asked the crew to stop filming. Was that because the polling station was empty? Yes, he said.

Hala Shukralla, a liberal opposition party leader, said the low turnout was worrying.

"I think a lot of people don't feel really they have a role to play, that this has already been decided for them," Shukralla said

El-Sissi and the Egyptian military orchestrated the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi 10 months ago. Since then, authorities have launched a massive crackdown on any form of dissent. Tens of thousands have been arrested and more than 1,300 killed.

Demonstrating in Egypt is now a crime. The only sign of protest during this election was red paint, symbolizing blood, splattered across el-Sissi posters.

Shukralla said she was concerned by the crackdown.

"I'm definitely alarmed," she said. "It means that we are going toward a path that is continuously closing the space for disagreement. And if that happens, you are leading us once more toward an explosion."

The government appears almost embarrassed by the low turnout. Cairo's largest mall closed early Tuesday to try to push people out to the polls and authorities have even threatened to fine people who don't vote.

Clearly, they are concerned about comparisons to the election in 2012, which drew huge crowds. For them, this is really an issue of legitimacy and of presidential mandate.

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

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