Carrots were reinforced with sticks. The state news agency reminded Egyptians that failing to vote was an offense punishable by fines of up to $28, a threat rarely acted upon in previous elections. In Assiut and Minya provinces, police officers went door to door urging people to cast their ballots.
Retirees, and an official at the state airline, EgyptAir, said they were warned that their April payments would be docked if they failed to vote.
The three-day vote, which ends Wednesday, is shaping up to be a predictably low-watt and joyless affair, the antithesis of the youthful passions driving the Arab Spring in 2011, when Egyptians ousted their longtime ruler, President Hosni Mubarak.
Turnout was light in many parts of Cairo. Reuters, citing an official in the National Election Authority, said about 13.5 percent of 59 million eligible voters had cast ballots on Monday.
In Tanta, posters for Mr. Sisi were plastered all over the main thoroughfares of the city, which is famed for its mashabek, a sticky yellow swirl of sugar and flour, and its magnificent Sufi mosque. It was hard to find a single image depicting his challenger, Moussa Moustapha Moussa, an obscure politician drafted at the last minute to prevent the embarrassment of a one-horse race.
Mr. Moussa, who has ties to the security services, accused the United States this week of fomenting the Arab Spring with the goal of destabilizing the Middle East. “This huge U.S. project was implemented by the team of Condoleezza Rice,” he told Russia’s Sputnik news agency, referring to the former secretary of state.
But many voters in Tanta failed to remember Mr. Moussa’s name, much less register their intention to vote for him.
And the effort to increase turnout with promises of food seemed to be working. Behind a phalanx of soldiers and scowling intelligence officials, about 50 yards from the stall where chits for food baskets were being handed out, a presiding officer reported a healthy turnout.
In some respects, the vote felt familiar to Egyptians, who endured manipulated elections during Mr. Mubarak’s rule from 1981 to 2011. His government also paid people to vote.
A spokesman for the Sisi campaign did not respond to queries about its electoral tactics. But the ease with which Mr. Sisi has steamrollered Egypt’s fractured opposition is a product of even harsher repression.
Mr. Sisi has outlawed the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, jailed thousands of opponents, and in the early stage of the election jailed or sidelined any candidate who might have posed a significant electoral threat. Journalists have been arrested, and a British reporter was expelled last month.
To Mr. Sisi’s supporters, though, he is a bulwark of stability in a region buffeted by violent chaos and political turmoil. In Ganzour, a small town six miles south of Tanta, a Sisi campaigner named Ibrahim Soliman wielded a megaphone at the gates of a polling station.
“Do you want your women to be violated as they were in Syria, Iraq and Libya?” he shouted as a trickle of voters filed through the gate.
Moments later a group of musicians and young men appeared — playing pipes, turning a jig and dancing on the roof of a vehicle. Mr. Soliman announced that a Western reporter was watching. “Let’s show him that we are a united country!” he said.
Another man grabbed the microphone from him. “You’re not voting for Sisi,” he exhorted the gathering crowd. “You’re voting for the Egyptian state.”
The results are due by Monday. In the last presidential election, in 2014, Mr. Sisi won 97 percent of the vote, although that was a time when he enjoyed broad public support. A year earlier, Egyptians filled Tahrir Square for a second time to demand the resignation of the elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, paving the way for the military takeover that brought Mr. Sisi to power.
His popularity has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks in Egypt’s main cities and a stinging economic downturn that has inflicted deep pain on the country’s poor. Online satirists often mock his lengthy speeches. Although the economy has picked up this year, poor Egyptians are still reeling from soaring inflation.
“Sisi restored security to our country,” said Ahmad Tawakol, an iron merchant in Tanta. “Now I want him to lower the price of food.”
Down the street, as we walked away, a man who had been watching on a street corner said, “There is no democracy.” When we stopped to speak to him, the Sisi supporters gathered around.
The man declined to give his name and denied he had said anything.
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