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Egypt's interim president urges Egyptians to vote in this week's presidential election

FILE -- In this Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 file photo, Egyptians wave a giant poster of Egypt's Defense Minister, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt’s likely next president, retired military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, says ties with the West and the United States will improve after elections May 26-27, 2014, confident that a strong show of public support will prove that Egyptians wanted his ouster of the country’s Islamist president, which threw relations between the two allies into their worst strains ever. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, File)

CAIRO – Egypt’s interim president urged Egyptians on Sunday to come out and vote in this week’s presidential election, saying the vote will shape the nation’s future.

In a televised address, Adly Mansour also sought to assure Egyptians that state institutions, including his office, would not interfere in the Monday and Tuesday voting.

“Let us all come out tomorrow and the day after to express our free choice. Choosing, without being guided or dictated to, the person we trust to have the ability to build and run the nation,” Mansour said.

Former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi is the heavy favourite to win the election. His only rival is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who placed a strong third in the last presidential election held in 2012.

El-Sissi led the military takeover that ousted last July the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, replacing him with Mansour, a career judge.

“The state’s institutions, with the presidency at their heart, stand at an equal distance from the two presidential candidates. They have not and will not direct any citizen to a specific choice. Instead, we are all concerned with security and a wide popular participation,” Mansour said in the recorded five-minute address.

El-Sissi has since last July enjoyed the support of the media, both state-owned and private, as he rode a wave of nationalist fervour that expressed adulation for the military as the nation’s most reliable and strongest institution. The military-backed government he installed since Morsi’s ouster has since cracked down on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group he hails from, arresting thousands and killing hundreds.

El-Sissi, apparently for security reasons, did not campaign on the streets, restricting his activity to TV interviews and meetings with various interest groups. Sabahi, on the other hand, has crisscrossed the country, marketing himself as the “candidate of the revolution,” a reference to the 2011 uprising that toppled the regime of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

In separate development, a suspected member of an al-Qaida-inspired group has been killed by his own roadside bomb in Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula, according to Egyptian security officials.

They said the militant’s father lost an arm in the blast Saturday. Both men, they added, are members of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a militant group which has been blamed for some of the bloodiest attacks in Egypt in recent years.

The officials said the two were trying to plant the bomb on a road frequently used by the army. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief journalists.

Meanwhile, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis issued a statement Sunday denying a claim by Egyptian authorities that its leader, Shadi el-Manaei, was killed with three of his associates. Egyptian officials said on Thursday the four had been killed on a road in central Sinai at the hands of tribesmen avenging the killing of one of their own accused of co-operating with police.

The group also denied that al-Manaei is its leader and warned tribesmen that “we only target those who work with this (Egyptian) renegade army … and after warning them and after appealing to them to repent.”

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified but it conforms with the group’s previous statements. At least two militant websites have published it.