Egypt's Ex-Military Chief Right For Presidency, Female Voter Says

Egyptians elect a new president next week. There are two candidates, and the man nearly certain to win is Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He was the head of the military until he resigned to run for president.

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Egyptians start voting for a president Monday. The leading candidate is Abdel Fattah el Sisi. He is the former head of the military who led a coup last year. Sisi has drawn much criticism from outside Egypt. He has allowed only one opponent in the election. He's overseen the suppression of activists, leaving thousands dead or in prison.

But he has his supporters. NPR's Leila Fadel introduces us to one.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAFE)

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: We meet Mirette Shoeir at a mall in suburban Cairo. She's 21 and wearing a hipster's uniform of funky rectangular glasses, jeans and a T-shirt. She's well traveled and plans to get a theatre degree in Canada. Next week she'll vote for the next president of Egypt. And she's made up her mind about whom she'd like to see in charge.

MIRETTE SHOEIR: Yes. I'm voting for Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

(LAUGHTER)

FADEL: Shoeir has lived through the last three and a half years of Egypt's transition. She protested against both Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer. They're both gone now and she says a strong man like Sisi is the right choice.

SHOEIR: He behaves with a lot of integrity. All promises he's made he has fulfilled and he seemed that he acted in a way that was best for the country, not just like based on political ambition.

FADEL: She says the choice wasn't difficult. There are only two candidates. And while some say a vote for Sisi is a setback to democracy, (unintelligible) just thinks Sisi will bring order to the country's messy politics.

SHOEIR: The revolution has fallen to chaos. There were a lot of people vying for a piece of pie and it was just sort of a way to get rid of all that and start all over again, to clear the slate.

FADEL: She talks a lot about justice during out conversation so I ask her why she's voting for a man who's endorsed the jailing of thousands in the country's sweeping crackdown on dissent.

SHOEIR: I wouldn't really call that a crackdown. They're innocent people being involved in, you know, this terrorism, people who were in the vicinity, for example, when something happens and they get arrested, so you know, that needs to stop, something needs to happen to make that stop.

FADEL: I ask if Sisi will make it stop.

SHOEIR: I think he'll try.

FADEL: El Sisi defended a controversial protest law that has put many youth activists behind bars and has vowed that the Muslim Brotherhood, a broad Islamist opposition movement, would be eradicated under his rule. Shoeir believes the Muslim Brotherhood is dangerous for Egypt, so she's okay with that.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We're under so much pressure. Bombings happening a lot every day. There are a lot of protests that take a violent turn. People's belongings, like cars, homes, are getting attacked. And then, we saw, like, we're under attack from so many sides and we cannot really venture with another politician and then see if he's going to stick to his word.

FADEL: Since Morsi's ouster, the country has experienced and uptick in militant attacks. The state and many Egyptians blame the Muslim Brotherhood, but there's no hard evidence it's behind the violence. Shoeir got caught in one of those bombings.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I was driving to work and I just saw this huge black cloud of smoke rising and, you know, the street was shut down and there was just panic. And it's scary. It's sheer terror.

FADEL: And truth be told, she might have a little bit of a crush on Egypt's man of the hour.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Sisi has acquired this way of speaking which goes right to the heart. He's very romantic about it. Like, he'll say to the Egyptian people, you know, you're the light of my eyes. I would rather - and the army would rather die than have somebody abuse you or hurt you. So I think that goes straight to people's hearts and, you know, they don't stop much for reason after that.

FADEL: Her mind's made up, but her family is split. Her mother loves Sisi too, but her father is voting for his opponent. Her husband, well, he's tired of politics and doesn't think it's worth voting at all. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo.

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