The woman in a long black shawl bustled up to a stall on a back street in the crowded Nile Delta city of Tanta, 50 miles north of Cairo. “Where’s my subsidy box?” she demanded. “My brothers and sisters in Cairo have already received theirs. When do I get mine?” The woman, Soad Abdel Hamid, a housewife, was referring to boxes of subsidized food — cooking oil, rice and sugar, mostly — promised to voters in many poor areas in return for casting their vote in Egypt’s presidential election. With no real opponent to provide drama in his re-election bid, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is relying on the sheer enthusiasm of his supporters to generate a credible turnout. And where fervor isn’t enough, he has other means of enticing — or pushing — voters to the polls.
Some voters said they had been paid, from about $3 to $9, to vote. In several areas, government officials promised voters improved services, like electricity or sanitation, if they cast their votes. In Marsa Matrouh, on the Mediterranean coast, a group of businessmen offered to send 500 voters on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Carrots were reinforced with sticks. The state news agency reminded Egyptians that failing to vote was an offense punishable by fines of up to $28, a threat rarely acted upon in previous elections. In Assiut and Minya provinces, police officers went door to door urging people to cast their ballots.