As the first round of Egypt’s parliamentary elections came to a close on Monday night, turnout appeared weak for the second consecutive day, highlighting growing disillusionment since the army seized power in 2013.
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said turnout on Sunday had been just 15-16 percent, but that it should rise after public sector workers were given a half-day off to vote.
Estimates by judges overseeing the ballot suggested the turnout had risen to 20 percent or more by Monday afternoon in the 14 regions covered by the first round, including the second city, Alexandria.
The lack of interest, particularly from the young people who comprise the majority of Egypt’s population, contrasted with the long queues and youthful enthusiasm of the 2011-12 polls that followed the overthrow of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
“I’m not going to give my vote to someone who doesn’t deserve it,” said Michael Bassili, 19, from Alexandria.
“As young people, we’re trying to fix the country and we’ll work to do this … but these guys are just interested in money and themselves.”
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had personally urged Egyptians to use their vote, and the low turnout suggested the former general, who once enjoyed cult-like adulation, was losing some of his appeal.
Sisi has described the election as a milestone on the road to democracy in Egypt, the most populous Arab country.
But with most of his opponents in jail, he is not expected to face any serious challenges from parliament, and the low turnout will reinforce the view that the assembly will lack credibility.
In 2013, then-army chief Sisi overthrew Egypt’s first freely-elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Mursi, and promised a “road map to democracy”.