World Bulletin/News Desk
Egyptian media castigated the public for a low turnout in a presidential election which former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expected to win, with one commentator saying those who failed to vote should be shot.
Many journalists support Sisi, the man who toppled Egypt's first freely-elected president last July. And with Sisi seemingly assured of victory, he needs a good turnout to shore up his legitimacy.
Egypt's army-backed government declared the second day of voting on Tuesday a holiday in a bid to get more voters onto the streets.
"What do you want? I'll kiss the feet of (your parents)... Should I take my clothes off and go live on air in the nude in order for people to believe?" asked popular television commentator Tawfiq Okasha on private channel al-Faraeen.
Asked what should happen to a woman if she chose to go shopping or cook on the holiday instead of voting, he slammed his hand on the desk and shouted: "She should be shot with a gun. She should shoot herself with a gun."
The popular uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 raised hopes that the Egyptian press would no longer blindly back the country's leaders and would instead take a critical look at their performance.
Egyptian media, both state and private, have hailed Sisi as a saviour since he ousted President Mohamed Mursi after mass protests and cracked down on his Muslim Brotherhood.
Mubarak's former military intelligence chief became so popular that his image appeared on posters, t-shirts and even chocolates.
But the short lines outside polling stations in various parts of Cairo on Wednesday suggested the personality cult had waned as Sisi prepared for many challenges.
In some cases voters were nowhere to be found. The polls close at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT), an hour later than planned.
"We are looking for a popular vote that will make it clear to the world that this is the will of the people," said Lamees al-Hadidi, a popular talk show host on a private news channel.
Two private Egyptian television channels flashed news urgents on Tuesday quoting officials at the supreme election committee saying that those who do not vote could be fined and referred to the public prosecutor.
After Mursi's overthrow, security forces launched a major crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, cheered on by the media.
Several Egyptian journalists interviewed by Reuters said it was their national duty to defend the state because the Brotherhood posed a threat to its existence.
Mostafa Bakry - an Egyptian commentator who once said Americans in Egypt should be killed in the streets if the United States ever harmed Sisi - joined the frenzied media call for a high turnout to give Sisi a strong mandate.
"Anyone who doesn't go down to vote, you are giving the kiss of life to those terrorists," Bakry shouted as he pointed his finger at the screen on privately owned Al-Nahar television.
"Go out (to vote), and those who don't go are traitors, traitors, traitors, who are selling this country."
Government declares holiday in bid to boost turnout
Seeking a strong mandate, Sisi had called for a record turnout earlier.
It is the second time Egyptians are electing a president in two years. And it is the seventh vote or referendum since 2011.
Al-Azhar, a state-run body that is Egypt's highest Islamic authority, said to not vote was "to disobey the nation", state TV reported.
On Sisi's Facebook page, admirers posted hundreds of pictures of themselves wearing Egyptian flags or patriotic T-shirts, with ink on their fingers showing they had voted for him. Others had banners saying "long live Egypt", Sisi's slogan.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, who view Sisi as the mastermind of a coup against Mursi, had called for a boycott. The security forces killed hundreds of Mursi's supporters and arrested an estimated 20,000 activists in a crackdown since his removal.
Some secular dissidents have also been jailed, often for breaking a new protest law criticised as a threat to free assembly, alienating some liberal Egyptians who were glad that Mursi was overthrown.
In Mursi's home village, only a fraction of registered voters had cast ballots at two polling stations visited by a Reuters journalist on Tuesday afternoon, the election officials overseeing the voting said.
A poster declared Mursi still the legitimate president of Egypt, urging voters to boycott "the elections of blood", while graffiti attacked Sisi as a traitor and killer.
In the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, a Muslim Brotherhood leader in her 40s said she had been overjoyed at the turnout.
"This boycott gives us hope that Sisi will not be a real president and be able to govern," she said, declining to give her name for fear of arrest.
The limited showing contrasted with parliamentary and presidential elections held after Mubarak's overthrow, when voter lines were measured in the hundreds and stretched far into the streets leading to the polling stations.
Mursi won more than 13 million votes, or 26 percent, in 2012 in a vote where turnout was 52 percent.
Some local media presented the election as a success.
"Egyptians make history," declared Al-Ahram, the state's flagship newspaper, showing a long line of men waiting to vote.Last Mod: 27 Mayıs 2014, 17:09