Egypt votes on Monday in a presidential election set to deliver an easy win for incumbent Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with turnout the main focus after opposition figures complaining of repression called for a boycott.
While many Egyptians see the U.S.-allied former general, as vital to stability in a country where unrest since 2011 has hurt the economy, critics have dubbed the vote a charade after several credible candidates withdrew apparently under pressure.
Sisi, 63, who led the military's overthrow of Egypt's first democratically elected President Mohamed Mursi in 2013, is seeking a second term after a first four-year mandate he says has brought stability and security.
But a lower-than-expected turnout could suggest Sisi lacks a mandate to take more of the tough steps needed to revive the economy, which struggled after the 2011 revolution drove away tourists and foreign investors, both sources of hard currency.
Sisi's sole challenger in the March 26-28 vote is Moussa Mostafa Moussa, a longtime Sisi supporter widely dismissed as a dummy candidate: Moussa's Ghad party had actually endorsed Sisi for a second term before he emerged as a last-minute challenger.
Moussa dismisses accusations he is being used to present a false sense of competition, and the electoral commission says it will ensure the vote is fair and transparent.
An editorial in state-owned newspaper al-Ahram acknowledged the narrow choice for voters but suggested the mere holding of the ballot signaled Egypt was regaining its strength in the face of current domestic and foreign threats.
"The importance of presidential elections this time is not fierce competition or a real (electoral) battle, but a message to the world that Egypt is on its way through a recovery phase," it said.