CAIRO – Egyptians will vote Monday and Tuesday in elections to choose a new president after the military's ouster last year of the country's first democratically elected leader, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi.
Considered all but certain to win is the man who removed Morsi — retired military chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who for the past 10 months has been the most powerful figure in Egypt. The only other candidate in the race is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who finished third in the 2012 presidential election.
Here are things to know about the election and the two candidates:
__ The 59-year-old el-Sissi has been the object of adulation since ousting Morsi on July 3 following massive protests by millions against the Islamist president. A significant sector of Egyptians is eager for stability and embittered at the Islamists. Also, the public has been awash for months in el-Sissi-mania, fueled by the media. TV stations and newspapers herald him as the nation's savior and the only man capable of solving Egypt's problems. They have also fanned pro-military and pro-police jingoism, intimidating critics. In contrast, Sabahi has received little media attention.
__ By percentage of votes, el-Sissi could win a landslide, but his camp's attention will be on turnout. If it's high, el-Sissi can claim the nation is behind him and tell the world that his ouster of Morsi reflected the will of Egyptians. Low turnout would show the narrowness of his support in a country that has risen up against two presidents since 2011. If Sabahi manages to thwart a landslide with a respectable showing, it would be a further blow, showing active opposition to el-Sissi despite the media hype.
__ Egyptians are desperately looking to restore security and revive the economy. Failure to show tangible results could trigger a new wave of unrest that some fear could be even more violent. Also, an el-Sissi presidency faces the question of whether Egypt can achieve the democracy sought by the 2011 uprising against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Morsi backers say the ouster of an elected president crushed those hopes. El-Sissi's supporters say he saved democracy from Islamists. His secular critics fear he will enshrine autocracy once more.
__ The Muslim Brotherhood, once the nation's most powerful political group, has been smashed, banned and branded a terror organization. Its leaders, including Morsi, face multiple trials on charges that could bring their execution. Many Egyptians have turned against the group, convinced it tried to use religion and elections to monopolize power. It has called on its supporters to boycott the election. But the Brotherhood's electoral constituency has not vanished. Both el-Sissi and Sabahi vow never to let the Brotherhood back into politics. Islamists say they will continue as a street opposition, betting el-Sissi's popularity will collapse and more Egyptians will join protests. Some may turn to violent Islamic militancy.
__ Egypt's next president will be the eighth since the overthrow of the monarchy in 1953. His predecessors in chronological order are: Mohammed Naguib (June 1953-Nov. 1954), Gamal Abdel-Nasser (1956-1970), Anwar Sadat (1970-1981), Sufi Abu Taleb (interim, October 1981), Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011), Mohammed Morsi (June 2012-July 2013) and Adly Mansour (interim, 2013- ).