05/26/2014, 00.00
EGYPT
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Egyptians set to elect a new president with Al-Sisi the almost certain winner

The results of the two-day election are expected at the end of May. Analysts and experts expect the former military chief of the Armed Forces to win. He vowed to "eradicate" Islamic terrorism from the country. Fears have been raised of a new drift towards authoritarianism.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Polls opened this morning for Egypt's presidential elections, with a former head of the Armed Forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and a left-wing intellectual dissident, Hamdeen Sabahi, as the main contenders. The voting will end tomorrow night, and results are expected on Friday, 30 May.

Analysts and experts agree on an "almost certain" victory for Sisi, who promised to end street violence and pursue a relentless fight against Islamic extremism, bringing to a close a turbulent three-year political phase.

Since Mubarak was forced to resign by a broadly based popular revolution, an elected government under the Muslim Brotherhood was followed by a military coup, and then an interim government that took over in order to draft a new constitution and then hold a fresh election.

Sisi enjoys great support among the population because he is seen as a strong man capable of bringing stability to the nation and the economy after the wave of protests and political violence that followed the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

However, pro-democracy groups who started the Arab Spring in Egypt accuse him of trying to stifle dissent and democratic freedoms. For instance, last April an Egyptian court banned the 6 April youth movement, which had started the anti-Mubarak unrest.

In the ten-month political vacuum since the coup, the military went after the Muslim Brotherhood hard, by dissolving it and blacklisting it as a "terrorist organisation".

Thousands of members have been arrested, and on 27 April 2014, a court in Cairo issued hundreds of death sentences against the group's leaders.

During the election campaign, Sisi vowed to "uproot" Islamic terrorism from the country "by any means available." With less verbal brutality, even Sabahi also announced that in case of victory, he would not legalise the Muslim Brotherhood.

These statements are raising fears that the country is drifting towards a new authoritarianism.

In view of the situation, Sisi said voters would have to set their priorities, choosing stability over democratic reforms. In fact, "What tourist would come to a country where we have demonstrations like this?" the former general asked Egyptian newspaper editors.

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