Egypt votes for third day with eyes on turnout
Egyptians voted Wednesday on the third day of a presidential election guaranteed to hand a second term to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, leaving turnout as the only contest.
The election commission announced that voting was being extended by an hour to 2000 GMT after warning people who do not vote they would be fined 500 pounds ($30).
Voters had trickled into polling stations with the authorities encouraging them to show up in high numbers.
The commission said not voting "serves the interests of people who hate the country", state television reported.
After polling stations closed there was no official figure for the turnout. Full results are not expected before April 2 but partial estimates should be released in the coming hours by local media.
Sisi won his first term in 2014, a year after the former army chief ousted his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against him.
He won that election with 96.9 percent of the vote, against a left-wing candidate.
This time, his serious rivals withdrew citing restrictions, were sidelined or arrested.
His sole rival is the little-known Moussa Mostafa Moussa, himself a Sisi supporter.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail urged voters to participate, saying on Tuesday it "is a national duty for all citizens".
State television showed voters at different polling stations and played patriotic music.
At some polling stations, voters were granted free meals. AFP was unable to verify the source of the donations.
At a news conference, an election commission official, Mahmud al-Sherif, said there had been no violations of Egypt's election law.
Some 60 million people in Egypt, the most populated Arab country, were registered to vote on March 26, 27, and 28.
In 2014, about 37 percent of voters participated in the two-day election, prompting authorities to add a third day to obtain a final participation rate of 47.5 percent.
- Opposition urged boycott -
Opposition groups had called for a boycott of this week's election which they labelled a facade.
There were no presidential debates and Sisi himself did not appear at any official campaign events, although he spoke at a number of ceremonies.
In an interview days ahead of the vote, Sisi said he had wished there were more candidates, denying any role in sidelining them.
At a speech before the vote he also called for a high turnout.
"I need you because the journey is not over," Sisi told a mostly female audience. "I need every lady and mother and sister, please, I need the entire world to see us in the street" voting.
Morsi's removal had ushered in a deadly crackdown that killed and jailed hundreds of Islamists.
A jihadist insurgency since has killed hundreds of policemen and civilians.
The Islamic State group's Egyptian affiliate, which has carried out a number of deadly attacks, has threatened to target election infrastructure.
On Saturday, two policemen were killed in a car bomb targeting the provincial head of security for the northern Alexandria governorate. The security chief was unharmed.
Egyptian cities, especially Cairo, have been flooded with banners showing Sisi and messages of support from business owners. Posters vowing support for Moussa, 65, are rarely seen.
While still popular, Sisi has embarked on tough economic reforms that have been welcomed by foreign investors but dented his popularity at home.