4 April 2018

Egypt: Unsurprising Second Term for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

Photo: Xinhua
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on a visit to China.

It has come as no surprise to anyone that Egyptian President Sisi has won a second term, with 97% of vote. Only about 40% of the votership went to the polls, despite threats of fines and blatant bribes by the president's government as he scrambled to give legitimacy to the elections

In a widely expected result, Sisi, who ran against only one candidate', Mousa Mostafa Mousa, after several other candidates quit the race, won more than 21 million votes, according to Egypt's National Election Authority.

President Sisi thanked voters in a televised address and promised to work for all Egyptians, saying, "Those who renewed their trust in me and gave me their votes are no different from those who did otherwise."

"Egypt is large enough for all Egyptians, so long as our differences of opinion do not adversely affect the nation," said Sisi, who has often insisted that the country's stability must come before the expansion of political freedoms.

Sole opponent Mousa, who allegedly handed in his bid 15 minutes to the deadline, has been accused of being a false candidate, sanctioned by the regime to give the election a veneer of legitimacy. Amidst these suspicions, Mousa claimed that although he was a supporter of Sisi before he decided to run, his election campaign was genuine.

"It is not my fault," Sisi said in a TV interview. "I swear to God, I wished there could have been more candidates for people to choose who they want. But they were not ready yet; there is no shame in this."

Genuine or not, without him the president would have run unchallenged, given that other serious contenders had been run off by Sisi's government through what the opposition claimed was a strategy of intimidation or coercion, which the president denies. Fact is, however, that more than 1 million Egyptians, who would not vote for him but were afraid of the repercussions of staying away from the polls, spoiled their ballots. This is nearly twice the number of voters who chose pseudo candidate Moussa.

This presidential race was the third since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted in the Arab Spring protests of 2011, throwing the country into political turmoil. The first was in June 2012, when Mohammed Morsy, political prisoner and former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt's first democratically elected president. His reign was short lived as, a year later, after violent crackdowns on protesters, Morsy was ousted in a military coup led by Sisi, the chief of the army at the time.

The election result and absence of any meaningful competition between the two candidates harkened back to the yes-or-no referendums held by Egypt's autocratic leaders in the decades before the 2011 uprising raised hopes of democratic change.

Coerced Celebrations

Thousands of Sisi supporters took to the streets in Cairo and other cities soon after the results were announced to celebrate the outcome, waving flags and dancing to patriotic songs.

Lasheen Ibrahim, the head of the election commission, who announced the official results, told voters, "You proved your love for Egypt and that you were and still are behind your country. Your participation was not in response to either promises or threats, but rather motived only by your love for Egypt."

According to the Economist, the celebrations were not a spontaneous outpouring of patriotic fervor. Apparently some were recruited by wealthy businessmen who advertised the gigs on Facebook: 150 Egyptian pounds (US$9) for a day's work. People were also manipulated into joining these staged celebrations by the efforts of such government officials as the governor of Beheira province in the Nile Delta, who promised to fix water and sewage systems in the districts that had the highest post-election turnout.

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