CAIRO - Egyptians cast their ballots Monday on the first of three days of voting in what appears to be a certain victory for incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi. Supporters of the president applauded, while some opponents cried foul and still others appeared to be disinterested in the outcome, one way or the other.
Supporters held an impromptu rally for their candidate in Cairo's Tahrir Square, as voting got under way at polling stations across the capital and Egypt's 14 provinces.
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Security was tight, as police and military forces stood guard at key government buildings and installations. Officers wore their dress uniforms as they kept watch over voters arriving at polling stations. Army helicopters overflew parts of the capital.
One middle-aged voter traded banter with polling workers as he dipped his finger in the indelible ink container after slipping his vote into a plastic ballot box at a school in the Giza district of Dokki.
Elsewhere, Egyptian TV showed a smiling President Sissi shaking hands with electoral workers as he cast his ballot in the Cairo district of Heliopolis.
A large crowd of villagers gathered outside a polling station in the province of Dhekeliya, as women ululated from time to time to applaud those who were going in to vote.
A voter named Ashraf told VOA that despite some misgivings, he was optimistic the situation in Egypt was heading in the right direction:
"This is a transition period and it's not guaranteed to be the maximum (of) our hopes. Hopefully by the end of the second term of the president, he will be ready to move to the next step," he said.
The secular al Ghad party, whose leader Moussa Mustapha Moussa is the only candidate to oppose President Sissi in the current election, told supporters that he did not care who won, "so long as everyone turned out to vote."
The election lasts three days with official results expected April 2.
Sissi came to power in 2013 by ousting President Mohammed Morsi, and then won a 2014 election with 97 percent of the vote. But election officials extended voting in that election by an extra day amid low turnout with final participation figures coming in under 50 percent.