Officials announced on Monday April 2 that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi had been re-elected as the Egyptian president for another four years. Sisi’s landslide victory saw him win 97.08 percent of the votes cast, despite a voter turnout of 41.5 percent. The only other challenger on the ballot was a supporter of him. It was reminiscent of his rise to power in 2014, when after a popularly backed military coup, Sisi won the election with 97 percent of the vote.
Sisi silenced all possible opposition and competition to his presidency by preventing five other candidates from being on the ballot. Ahmed Shafiq, the former Egyptian prime minister, narrowly lost to Mohammed Morsi in the 2013 presidential elections that followed after the 2011 Revolution. Shafiq, who was seen as Sisi’s strongest competitor, was deported by the United Arab Emirates to Egypt, and following his deportation dropped out of the race. Sami Anan, the previous second in command of the supreme council of armed forces (SCAF), was similarly pushed out of the race. The National Elections Authority (NEA) alleged that Anan had forged documents he submitted for his presidential candidacy, and he was subsequently arrested and put in military jail. Another competitor, Colonel Ahmed Konsowa, was put in jail for making a campaign video while in his military uniform.
Anwar Sadat, the former Egyptian president’s nephew, and Khaled Ali both pulled out of the race on their own accord. Ali, a socialist, told a press conference announcing his withdrawal from the campaign that “the opportunity for hope in this presidential campaign has gone.” Sadat blamed an environment of fear surrounding voting and the election. He hinted that he might run in the 2022 elections, where, because of constitutional law, Sisi will be unable to run.
The election results were anticipated both within and outside of the country, both because of the lack of opposition, and the tightening grip Sisi has over the country. In recent months, Sisi dismissed his military chief of staff, General Mahmoud Hegazy, and also reshuffled the leadership of the security forces. The interior ministry replaced multiple high-ranking security officials following the deadly attack on police officers in Giza Province. No details or comments were given regarding the changes, but many noted that the replacements were close aides to Sisi.
Walker Gunning, a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Chicago whose focus is on Egypt, explained to The Gate that the results of the election were unsurprising. “The outcome of the recent presidential election was never in doubt,” Gunning said. “Despite that, President Sisi's camp drove out all halfway viable contenders en route to winning 97 percent of the vote. That unwillingness to allow even a fig leaf of democratic legitimacy is a signal to Egyptians that political dissent will not be tolerated.”
The election commission, who announced the results, said that the vote was held according to the “highest international standards of integrity and transparency.” However, both local and international media reported that, as incentive to cast their ballots, some voters said they were offered money, food, and gas. Additionally, critics and analysts claim that the low voter turnout is indicative of the low support and enthusiasm for Sisi. Despite attempting to bring out Egyptians to vote in in order to quell thoughts of social unrest and a lack of support, Sisi was unable to do so.
Despite this, officials within President Trump’s administration praised the vote, and the American embassy in Cairo tweeted that “As Americans we are very impressed by the enthusiasm and patriotism of Egyptian voters.” Like Trump, Sisi has started to use claims of “fake news” as a way to cease any dissent against the government. A filmmaker, Mostafa al-Asar, was arrested and charged with publishing “fake news” before he had started work on a documentary that is critical of Sisi. Prior to the vote, about five hundred media and non-governmental organization (NGO) sites were blocked. The United Nations’ human rights chief said there was a “pervasive climate of intimidation” in the run-up to the election; the Egyptian foreign ministry claimed the comments were “baseless allegations.”
The lack of support for Sisi is due to a variety of reasons. The multitude of terrorist attacks that have occured in his tenure, both in Mainland Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, and the presence of militants pose continuous threats. Additionally, the regime’s crackdown on all forms of dissent, as seen in the election, is evident. Human rights groups have criticized the government for its human rights abuses, ranging from the detainment of members of the LGBTQ community, anal examinations, female genital mutilation, and denying the freedom to assemble and protest. Additionally, the economy has suffered considerably, with inflation rates exceeding 20 percent, and has directly impacted the lives of everyday Egyptians.
What remains to be seen is whether or not Sisi will challenge the two term constitutional law when his second term finishes. Many critics see such a challenge as a very real possibility, given Sisi’s aggressive accumulation of power. But growing discontent within Egyptian society towards the government because of crackdowns, a terrible economy, and a consolidation of power is clear. Societal discontent within Egyptian society paved the way for both the 2011 revolution and the 2013 ouster of Morsi.
Gunning explained that, while the election landslide looks good for Sisi, “It won't do anything to address Egypt's continuing economic and political challenges. If Sisi can't start to deliver on his promises to right the economy and quiet the Sinai insurgency, even his core supporters could stop seeing him as a source of stability.” But whether that dissatisfaction is enough to topple Sis’s regime remains to be seen. As Gunning concluded, “don't expect that reality to be reflected in future election results 2022 if Sisi has any say in it.”
The featured image is licensed under the Creative Commons. The original can be found here.
Yarra Elmasry is second year prospective Political Science major and Near Eastern Language and Civilizations minor, interested in international relations, psychology, and photojournalism. Over the summer she interned at the Independent in London. On campus, she is part of the marketing team for the Major Activities Board, a photographer and designer for the culinary magazine Bite, and a member of the competitive club tennis team.