CAIRO, Egypt, May 27 – Egyptians went to the polls Monday for presidential elections, seen as certain to vault former army chief, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi into office, less than a year after he overthrew Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader.

El-Sissi hopes for a large turnout that will send a message to the West that his removal of Morsi was not a coup but a popular revolution, like the one that ended Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30-year-reign in 2011. Millions of Egyptians rallied against Morsi ahead of his ouster, but the country remains deeply polarised and Morsi’s Islamist supporters are boycotting the vote.

“It is like a wedding day. It is a new beginning.” — said, Hoda Takla, a 65-year-old Coptic Christian woman, who walked out after voting, with a big smile on her face.

“Egypt is reborn … Be strong, come on down, there’s no worry and I assure a full control of the situation.” — Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, in a phone interview with the private CBC network, after a man was gunned down in the Islamist-stronghold of Kerdassa, in southern Cairo.

“This is a poor movie. The days of Mubarak are back … The iron state is coming back, and frankly speaking, I am not against it. I am a simple man with four children looking to earn my living.” — Mohammed Heiba, a 37-year-old tailor, who said, he won’t vote because el-Sissi is sure to win in a landslide.

“No one cared for us, the poor, who live in misery and sleep on empty stomachs. There are people in this country, so rich that they feed chicken to their dogs and get doctors for their pets, while most of Egypt’s people barely eat and can’t find proper health care.” — Rashad Megawer, a 65-year-old school guard with 10 children, who makes less than $50 a month.

“Tomorrow will be good for all of us – all of us together” — El-Sissi, after voting in a Cairo suburb, surrounded by admirers who took photos with him and kissed him on the cheek.

“El-Sissi is the greatest person in the world; he changed the world map for the benefit of Egyptian nationalism. Egypt will have a leap in development after the elections, but we have to work and put (forth) some effort. No one of (Morsi’s Muslim) Brotherhood would dare and do anything today, we have absolute faith in the army and the police.” — Nasser Meghres, a 54-year-old factory owner.

“People are not voting for a simple reason: They lined up before, waited for their turn (and) cast their ballot many times before. What was the result?” — a bearded young man, passing near an empty polling centre, in the populous district of Matariya, which sees weekly clashes between Islamist supporters of Morsi and security forces.