El-Sissi Is Clear Front-Runner In Egypt Presidential Contest

Egyptians go to the polls this week, and the front-runner is Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. His supporters say he'll bring order to the country, but others say Mohammed Morsi is still the legitimate president.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin. Egyptians go to the polls tomorrow and Tuesday to choose their next president. The clear front-runner is former military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He led the popular military coup in 2013 that ousted then-President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist from the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Sisi has also backed a recent crack-down on political dissenters in Egypt. But his supporters, and they are the majority, say he can bring much-needed order to the country. Merrit Kennedy drove a couple hours outside Cairo to visit two neighboring villages with opposing views of the vote.

MERRIT KENNEDY, BYLINE: On a dirt road in the village of Kafr Abu Deeb, a banner strung across two concrete and brick apartment buildings encourages citizens to vote for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Just a few steps away is another poster showing a police sergeant from this village. His name was ElShahhet AbdelNaby, and a sniper shot and killed him on his way to work on Monday. His extended family is in mourning, sitting around a sparse living room. Some have been crying, others simply in shock.

AHMED: (Arabic spoken).

KENNEDY: His brother Ahmed, who is also a policeman, says the family warned AbdelNaby it was too dangerous to wear his uniform on the way to work. There have been a string of attacks on security forces since the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi was ousted from the presidency last summer.

The Brotherhood denies involvement in the violence, and the government has not provided evidence that links the group to the attack. But Ahmed says he holds the Brotherhood responsible for his brother's death.

AHMED: (Through translator) We want the country to move on, and they try to intimidate people so that nobody goes to the elections. But we'll go to the elections even if we get killed.

KENNEDY: He's voting for Sisi, and sees him as the only person who can stop the kind of violence that killed his brother. The village's religious leader, Imam Abdel Nasr Bora'y, came to pay his condolences to the family.

BORA'Y: (Through translator.) We're all close to each other in this area, everyone except the Brotherhood. They've proved that they're not part of us.

KENNEDY: A couple miles away through fields of wheat and cotton, is another village where the sentiment is very different. Graffiti on the buildings in the village, al-Edwa, say Morsi is my president, and Sisi is a traitor. This is where Morsi grew up, and he's still popular here.

ISLAM: (Arabic spoken).

KENNEDY: Sitting in his small workshop, a man named Islam says he believes Morsi was democratically elected and is still Egypt's legitimate president. He won't bother to vote in this election, and would not give his last name for fear of being punished for his views.

ISLAM: (Through translator) The elections are not real. It's a charade that won't end with anyone laughing.

KENNEDY: He says that a person from this village was among the hundreds killed when security forces brutally killed a pro-Morsi sit-in last August. Police arrested 13 residents. Thousands of Morsi's supporters are imprisoned across the country.

ISLAM: (Arabic spoken).

KENNEDY: Still, Islam says, he's determined to continue protesting. He participates in marches every Friday, and the villagers block the road three times a week.

ISLAM: (Arabic spoken).

KENNEDY: Islam says he used to have hope for democracy in Egypt, but not anymore. He says Egypt is under a dictatorship based on military and police power.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOUDSPEAKER)

KENNEDY: Nearby, loudspeaker truck blasts pro-Sisi music as it ambles along a one-lane road. Sisi is almost sure to win the election. The Muslim Brotherhood is in the minority, but the movement has survived for generations. The divisions in this area and across Egypt will remain. For NPR News, I'm Merrit Kennedy in Cairo.

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