Egypt has a presidential election starting Monday, but the winner is almost certain already: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. And tight restrictions limit discussion of other options.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Egyptian officials are tightening security ahead of Monday's presidential elections as they investigate a deadly car bomb in Alexandria today. Egypt's President Sisi, a former army general who came to power after a military coup, is running for a second term. And as NPR's Jane Arraf reports from Cairo, he's pretty much assured a victory.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
JANE ARRAF, BYLINE: This is a pro-Sisi rally in one of the poorer neighborhoods in Cairo. There's a tent set up in a parking lot with a stage and posters of the president. Kids run between the rows of chairs.
It's a huge tent lined with red, white, blue and yellow satin. And it's filled up with women. They're almost all woman and little children. It isn't politics that these women are interested in. They want someone to help them.
Ahlam Abdul Rady says one of her daughters was moved from a slum into a new apartment paid for by the government.
AHLAM ABDUL RADY: (Through interpreter) We are here to support Sisi because he's a good man. God willing, we will elect him for the second and even the third time if I'm still alive.
ARRAF: Five years ago, Sisi led a military coup that toppled democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. Sisi was elected a year later. Sisi's Egypt has brought in what human rights groups call an unprecedented crackdown, with thousands killed or jailed. At this rally, people don't care about that. They want food and a decent place to live. Sisi doesn't really have to do a lot of campaigning. That's partly because most serious rivals were either jailed or say they were intimidated into withdrawing. Sisi in a recent Egyptian television interview had a different.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT ABDEL FATTAH EL-SISI: (Through translator) I was hoping to have with us one or two or three or even 10 of the best, most virtuous candidates. And you would choose as you wish. We are not ready yet. It is not a shame to say that.
ARRAF: So who is running against him? His name is Moussa Mostafa Moussa. He's a 65-year-old architect, business owner and politician. Before he declared as a candidate, he'd been working at getting Sisi re-elected. At his party headquarters in downtown Cairo, he tells NPR he decided to run because an election with only one candidate would have been a referendum rather than a real election.
MOUSSA MOSTAFA MOUSSA: Having a referendum basis was going to be a catastrophic situation because the voters would not go down to vote because there would be only one candidate.
ARRAF: He says that would have been terrible for Egypt's image. In the street outside, his campaign manager Sayed Mahmoud Obeido hands out fliers. He's predicting Moussa could get 40 percent. It seems unlikely. But he says the important thing is that Egyptians go out and vote.
SAYED MAHMOUD OBEIDO: (Through translator) With all respect to Sisi, we are asking people to vote for Sisi or Moussa.
ARRAF: Sisi has considerable support from business people, Christians who fear the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptians who believe it's either Sisi's strong-arm tactics or chaos. Without a strong rival to Sisi, the question is how many Egyptians will actually bother to vote. Some quietly say they'll stay away from the polls in protest even though voting is technically required. A lot of young Egyptians in particular feel betrayed that the revolution has ushered in repression. But in these streets of Cairo strung with banners supporting Sisi, they're not talking. Jane Arraf, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.