A milestone in the road-map to democracy.
That is how Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary election, which began on Sunday, is being presented.
But there is little suspense or voter enthusiasm about a poll set to reinforce President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi who, as army chief, ousted elected leader Mohamed Mursi of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
Voter Nayra Botros in Giza stressed the patriotic point of casting her ballot.
“After what we have been through, we have to come down here and unite. Even if we disagree, we can’t disagree over Egypt,” she said.
Egypt’s constitution, passed by referendum before Sisi won a presidential vote in mid-2014, endows the new parliament with wide-ranging powers. On paper, it can reject the president’s choice for prime minister or even impeach the president.
In a televised speech on Saturday, Sisi urged his compatriots to vote. Egypt has had no parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically-elected main chamber.
With the Muslim Brotherhood now banned and its leaders behind bars, Sisi loyalists dominate the field of candidates standing for what critics claim will be a rubber-stamp parliament.
Sisi still enjoys wide support in Egypt but there are growing signs of discontent with higher food prices, taxes and dire public healthcare in a country where 44 percent of recent graduates are unemployed.
The elections will take place over two rounds with final results expected in December.