CAIRO — Egyptians cast ballots Monday for a new president in an election widely expected to secure a resounding victory for military strongman Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi, one that will probably further entrench the army's decades-long rule.
Monday marked the first of two days of voting in which just two candidates, former Defense Minister el-Sissi and leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, are vying for the nation's top office after Egypt's first democratically elected president was ousted by the military last year.
Festive pro-Sissi crowds gathered outside polling stations in Cairo, singing, dancing and waving Egyptian flags. Army helicopters patrolled the skies, flying over polling stations to cheers from pro-military crowds.
Many Egyptians see el-Sissi as a strong, charismatic candidate capable of ushering in stability after years of political and economic turmoil. But el-Sissi, who led the army coup against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer, has also been criticized for presiding over a widespread crackdown against dissidents, including the Muslim Brotherhood group that backed Morsi's presidency.