CAIRO — Egyptians go to the polls on Monday in a presidential election that ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted the elected Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, is expected to easily win amid calls for stability.
The two-day election caps more than three years of political turmoil that has seen two presidents ousted following mass protests, thousands killed in clashes and militant attacks, and an economy left in tatters.
Polling stations open at 0600 GMT for 53 million registered voters.
Sisi is expected to trounce his only rival, leftist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi, amid calls for a strong leader who can restore stability in the Arab world's most populous country and shore up the economy.
But true democracy, the ideal millions rallied and fought for in a 2011 uprising that overthrew strongman Hosni Mubarak, will have to wait, perhaps for a couple of decades, Sisi has said.
Instead, he says he will work hard to restore the economy and fight "terrorism."
Sisi has called for a high turnout in the election, billed by the military-installed authorities and the West as a milestone toward elected rule in the country of 86 million people.
"You need to go down now more than any other time in (the country's) history. Go down, show to the entire world that there are 40, 45 (million) or even more" voters casting their ballots, Sisi said as campaigning closed on Friday.
The military and police are being deployed heavily to secure polling stations across the country, which saw a surge in militant attacks after Morsi's overthrow on July 3 last year.
The presidential poll will be followed by parliamentary elections later this year.
Sisi's sole election rival Sabbahi, a veteran dissident, has vowed to defend the democratic aspirations of the 2011 revolt.
"We swear to God that symbols of corruption and despotism (from the Mubarak era) will not return," he said on Friday.
The April 6 youth movement, which spearheaded the anti-Mubarak revolt and whose leader has been jailed, has called for a boycott of the election.— AFP