Egypt heads to polls to pick president

Photo: Egypt heads to polls to pick president / Arab World

Egyptians are voting on Monday for their next president, in the first day of polls expected to see former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi win by a landslide as he contends with leftist political figure Hamdeen Sabbahi, Al Arabiya reported.

Widely regarded Egypt's de facto leader since he led the ouster of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi last July, Sisi has been riding a wave of popularity following mass protests that had called for Mursi's ouster.

He has acknowledged the scale of Egypt's problems, including an energy crisis and Islamist militant violence that has driven away foreign investors and tourists, hammering the economy.

Sabbahi finished third in the 2012 election which brought Mursi to power.

The 60-year-old says he was jailed 17 times under former presidents Anwar Sadat and Mubarak.

The veteran dissident proudly upholds ideals of the 2011 revolution and frequently invokes the slogans of "bread, freedom and social justice" chanted by millions when Mubarak was ousted.

A journalist by training, Sabbahi is founder of Al-Karama (Dignity) party, which was refused registration under Mubarak's regime.

Meanwhile Sisi's supporters regard him as a decisive figure who can stabilize Egypt, a strategic U.S. ally in the heart of the Arab world. His opponents, mostly in the Islamist opposition, say he is the mastermind of a coup that robbed Egypt's first freely-elected leader of power.

They fear Sisi will rule Egypt with an iron fist just like other former military men did, and say he will protect the political and economic interests of the generals and businessmen who amassed fortunes before the 2011 uprising which toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak but remain influential.

Security forces have largely driven the Brotherhood underground after hundreds were killed and thousands arrested. More than a thousand Brotherhood supporters have been sentenced to death on charges including inciting violence after the army overthrew Mursi.

Egypt election officials said last week Sisi won over 94 percent of the expat votes in the country's presidential polls.

Polling stations open at 9 a.m. (0600 GMT) and although the result appears a foregone conclusion, a big turnout would be seen as a strong mandate for Sisi's rule.

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