Egyptians began voting on Saturday in the second phase of parliamentary elections in which supporters of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi are expected to win.
Some 63 million of Egypt’s more than 100 million people are eligible to elect 568 of the 596 legislators in the lower house, widely seen as a rubber-stamp body for executive policies.
The remaining 28 deputies will be appointed by el-Sisi, a former general, whose government over the past six years has launched a severe crackdown on dissent, targeting journalists, bloggers, lawyers and intellectuals.
A quarter of the seats are reserved for women, according to constitutional amendments approved in a national referendum last year.
“We may observe some real competitions among candidates in several districts, however, this competition has nothing to do with the broad idea of free and fair elections, it is a competition only allowed among loyal individuals,” Ahmed Abd Rabou, a visiting assistant professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies-University of Denver who specialises in Egypt, told The Associated Press.
The government deployed thousands of police and troops to safeguard the two-day vote.
Precautionary measures were also taken to stem the spread of COVID-19, amid warnings by the government about a second wave of the pandemic. Egypt has shown a slight increase in daily confirmed cases in the past two weeks.
The first phase of voting took place last weekend in 14 governorates including the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the south of Egypt.
Just over nine million, or 28 percent of voters, cast their ballots in the first stage, according to the National Election Authority. That turnout dealt a blow to el-Sisi’s government that lobbied for high participation in the vote to ensure it has credibility.
The second and final phase, which wraps up on Sunday evening, is being held in 13 governorates, including Cairo, the Nile Delta and the Suez Canal. More than 31 million people are eligible to vote in this stage.
The new parliament will be the second to convene under el-Sisi, who took office in 2014 after leading a military coup against then-President Mohamed Morsi the previous year.
The outgoing legislature, elected in 2015, was packed with el-Sisi supporters and featured only a small opposition bloc known as 25/30.
Runoffs are due to be held later in November and in December, and the winners will take their seats in parliament in January.