Presidential election in Egypt: Egyptians called to the polls for a vote won by outgoing President Al-Sissi

Egyptians began voting on Sunday, December 10, for a presidential election largely overshadowed by the war in the neighboring Gaza Strip

Presidential election in Egypt: Egyptians called to the polls for a vote won by outgoing President Al-Sissi

Egyptians began voting on Sunday, December 10, for a presidential election largely overshadowed by the war in the neighboring Gaza Strip. Unsurprisingly, the outgoing president, Marshal Al-Sissi, seems assured of winning a third term. Some 67 million voters are expected to go to the polls on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before the official results, which will be announced on December 18.

In this country of 106 million inhabitants facing the most serious economic crisis in its history, purchasing power is the priority, with two thirds of the population living below or just above the poverty line.

Two opposition figures tried to present themselves for a time but were quickly dismissed. Today, one of them is in prison and the other awaiting trial. Apart from the outgoing president, three candidates generally unknown to the general public are in the running: Farid Zahran, head of the Egyptian Democratic and Social Party (classified on the left), Abdel-Sanad Yamama, of the Wafd, a party founded at the beginning of the 20th century, but become marginal, and Hazem Omar, of the Republican People's Party.

Despite Egypt's difficulties, no serious opposition seems to exist under the reign of Mr. Al-Sisi, the fifth president from the ranks of the army since 1962, and who leads the country in an inflexible manner after regaining power from the hands of Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood, during the coup d'état of July 3, 2013.

Thousands of opponents were imprisoned, and if the presidential pardons committee released a thousand in one year, “three times as many people” were arrested during the same period, according to several NGOs.

Declining participation

At the opening Sunday, dozens of voters of all ages, the majority women, crowded in front of the Abdine school, in the historic center of Cairo, amid heavy security.

Posters proclaiming “Get out and participate” are displayed in front of the polling station where a DJ plays nationalist songs. Participation in presidential elections has been declining for several years, rising to 41.5% in 2018, while it was around 47% in 2014. In these two elections, President Al-Sissi won by more than 96% of the vote.

Far from exciting the Egyptian population, the presidential campaign took place in November in the shadow of the war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas, which monopolizes the attention of the media and public opinion.

Talk shows, close to the government and fervent supporters of President Al-Sissi, are now trying to link the two. “There are two million (Gazans) who want to return home (…), we cannot sit and watch, we are going to go out and say “no to the transfer”” of the Palestinians, pleads presenter Ahmad Moussa, repeating word for word a speech by Mr. Al-Sissi at the start of the war.