Following reports of low voter turnout, Egypt's cabinet has issued a decree offering a 'half-day off' for government employees. Without a real opposition, the elections are expected to seal President el-Sissi's rule.
In a bid toboost voter turnout,
the Egyptian government announced on Sunday night that government employees would receive "a half-day off" to encourage them to vote on the second day of the parliamentary elections.
Egypt's first parliamentary poll in more than three years kicked off in 14 out of 27 governorates on Sunday, with the government designating the election days as public holidays for schools.
However, low voter turnout was reported across the country, with Judge Abdullah Fathi - head of the Judges' Club, an unofficial but powerful group representing Egypt's judges - describing it as "clearly and unjustifiably weak," according to state-owned periodical al-Ahram.
The elected parliament is likely to serve as a rubber stamp for President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's policies, due to the lack of an opposition and several parties running on a pro-government platform.
In a pre-election speech, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called on Egyptians "to head for the balloting boxes" in a bid to muster up votes.
"Your free national will and unwavering determination were your vehicle to achieve your dreams for ending despotism and preventing efforts to control your nation under the cloak of fake slogans," el-Sissi said, apparently referring to his ascension.
In 2013, then-military chief el-Sissi rose to power following a military coup backed by popular protests, which overthrew Egypt's first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi of thenow-banned Muslim Brotherhood.
While 568 seats will be elected through a system comprising party lists and candidates, 28 of them will be appointed by el-Sissi under a decree the president issued in 2014 afterassuming office.
Results of the parliamentary elections are expected in December, with the 596-seat chamber due to take office before the end of 2015.
El-Sissi's tenure has been marred by a violent crackdown on rights groups,journalists
and political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party.
ls/ (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)