One manager threatened employees to get them to vote — and then checked for telltale ink-stained fingers as they clocked in the next day. A regional governor pledged improved water and sanitation service to towns with a high turnout. Some people were promised more food and even cash if they went to the polls. With President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi running virtually unopposed in this week’s election, Egypt’s leadership has made clear it considers a high turnout crucial to ensuring that the balloting has credibility. For months ahead of the balloting that began Monday and runs through Wednesday, pro-government media have pushed the message that voting was a patriotic duty to foil foreign plots against Egypt.
But as the election neared, officials used a mixture of rewards, bullying and cajoling to boost turnout. This concerted drive has been undertaken by regional governors, community leaders, police, schools, clerics and businessmen, according to interviews conducted by The Associated Press.
The election comes amid the harshest crackdown on dissent in Egypt’s modern history, with thousands of Islamists and secular activists in jail. It has been dismissed as a sham by opposition leaders and rights groups, and a call for a boycott by the opposition was criticized by government supporters as tantamount to treason.