On 3 June the Election Commission announced the results of the presidential elections: Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won 96.91% of the votes. On 26 and 27 May Egyptian voters could cast their ballots for the presidential elections. Because the turnout was low on the 26th, the government declared a national holiday on the 27th, which they hope leads to a higher turnout. In the end, 47% of the country’s 54 million people, voted. This percentage is lower than expected.
Egypt can choose between two candidates: former field marshal Abdel Fatah el-Sisi and left-wing former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahy. In 2012 Sabahy came third in the elections. Other candidates during the 2012 elections did not run this time because “the climate was not conductive to democracy following a crackdown on Islamist and other opposition groups.”
Sabahy’s opponent, Sisi, has quit the army in March in order to run for president. He led a coup that removed former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Morsi was the nation’s first democratically elected president.
Egyptians who live abroad could already vote between 15 May and 18 May. Of this group, 95 percent voted for Sisi.
On the first voting day the turnout “is very low”, an official of the international monitoring group Global Network for Rights and Development reported. Although many analyst argue that “victory for Sisi is a foregone conclusion”, turnout is seen as an important measure of the level of popular support. In order to encourage people to go voting local media chided voters for not turning out in large numbers, people received text messages with a reminder that not voting is an offence, punishable with a fine, and a prominent TV commentator called people who did not vote traitors.
The Muslim Brotherhood, party of former president Morsi, has instructed their followers to boycott the elections. The Brotherhood is declared as a terrorist organisation by the state. Sisi made a clear statement about the group: during his presidency “the Brotherhood would cease to exist.”
So far, the amount of unrest during the elections is manageable. On the 26th Sabahy’s office complained that police officers and soldiers refused his representatives access to the polling stations. The office further stated that a lawyer of the campaign’s legal committee was “brutally beaten and arrested after trying to mediate in a dispute with another campaign delegate.”
Near a polling station in Fayoum, an improvised explosive device was detonated, but did not led to injuries. At three other locations the police diffused six bombs.
One and a half week before the elections The Charter Center published a report in which they expressed their concerns about “the restrictive political and legal context surrounding Egypt’s electoral process, the lack of genuinely competitive campaign environment, and the deep political polarisation that threatens the country’s transition.” Human Rights Watch estimates that the number of political dissidents and Islamists in detention “at more than 20.000.”
When Sisi voted himself he stated: “Today Egyptians are going to write their history.” Although he seems to be popular, he does have to meet the expectations of the voters who currently back him. This will be a difficult task, due to the amount of “poverty, unemployment and other social problems.” Sisi is aware of this and said at the beginning of May that people “should lower their expectations for change”, Egyptians should not expect “instant democracy or rapid economic reforms.” He further argued that shared sacrifice is a necessary condition. For Sisi’s supporters these statements show that he is “a decisive man of action”, while his opponents argue that these “are signs of a new autocrat in waiting.”
On 3 June the election results have been published. If both candidates did not get a majority, a runoff would take place between 16 and 17 June. In the end this was not necessary, due to al-Sisi’s “landslide victory”.
By Laura Ritter
Sources: Reuters I, Al Jazeera, Reuters II, The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, Reuters III, AhramOnline, The Carter Center