An idiot’s guide to Egypt’s 2018 presidential election

Zeinab El-Gundy , Monday 26 Mar 2018

Candidates, campaigns, polls...Ahram Online has rounded up the key info on the March election

File Photo: The counselor of an electoral commission opens the ballot box to start the vote count after the final day in Egypt's 2014 presidential election. (Mai Shaheen)

Egypt’s next presidential election will take place in late March, officials have announced, with candidate registration to be finalised in January, and a run-off round, if needed, scheduled for April.

The vote is the first presidential poll since 2014, when Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi beat Hamdeen Sabahi in a two-man race.

Below is Ahram Online’s comprehensive guide to this year’s elections.

What happens when? 

The presidential race will officially start on 20 January, when the National Elections Authority will start to receive applications from candidates who want to run in the polls. The process will close on 29 January.

Candidates must receive endorsements from a minimum of 20 MPs, or 25,000 citizens from at least 15 governorates, with at least 1,000 endorsements from each governorate.

The NEA will publish the list of individuals who submitted candidacy requests in the state-owned Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar newspapers on Wednesday 31 January.

On 1 and 2 February, the authority will receive any objections and appeals from candidates, and from 1 to 5 February it will investigate these matters.

On 6 February, the NEA will announce candidates that are disqualified from running.

There will be a two-day period for appeals. The NEA will declare its rulings on any appeals on 9 February. 

From 10 to 11 February, disqualified candidates are permitted to appeal the NEA's rulings in front of the High Administrative Court.  

For 10 days from 12 to 21 February, the High Administrative Court will look into any appeals and issue verdicts, to be published in Al-Ahram and Al-Akhbar.

On 22 February, the remaining presidential candidates will choose their symbols in the elections. These symbols will appear on their campaigning material and on the ballot paper against their name.

On 24 February 2018, the NEA will announce the final list of those who qualify as candidates.

On the same day, presidential campaigns will officially kick off. Campaigning is permitted for 11 days outside the country (until 13 March) and for 28 days inside Egypt (until 23 March). 

Candidates can declare their withdrawal from the race up until 1 March.  

The presidential campaigns targeting Egyptian expats must suspend their activities outside Egypt on 14 March.

From 16 to 18 March, Egyptians abroad who are eligible to vote will head to Egyptian embassies and consulates cast their ballot, with polls open from 9am to 9pm, according to the NEA.

Candidates will suspend campaign activities inside Egypt starting 24 March, and the first round of voting will take place from 26 to 28 March. Polling stations will be open from 9am to 9pm.

If no run-off is required – with one receiving 51 percent or more of the vote – the winner will be announced on 2 April.

If a run-off is required, a second round of voting will be held on 19 to 21 April for Egyptians voting abroad, and 24 to 26 April for voters in Egypt.  

The final result of the run-off and the winner will be announced on 1 May.

The new National Elections Authority

These are the first presidential elections to be organised and supervised by the National Elections Authority; previous polls, both presidential and parliamentary, had been run by the High Elections Committee.

According to Article 229 of the constitution, the NEA, an independent state body, must replace the Presidential Elections Committee and the Parliamentary Elections Committee following the first presidential and parliamentary elections held after the adoption of the constitution.

The NEA is regulated by the National Elections Authority Law, which was ratified by President El-Sisi in August 2017. 

According to Article 209 of the constitution, the board of the NEA is made up of 10 members selected by the Supreme Judicial Council including the heads and deputies of the Court of Cassation, the Cairo Court of Appeals, and the State Council. The members serve exclusively in the authority for at least one term of six years.

The president ratifies the appointment of NEA board members by a presidential decree.

The NEA will replace the judiciary in supervising the elections by 2024, in accordance with the constitution, which says that this must take place 10 years after the constitution takes effect.

The decisions and orders of the NEA can be challenged legally only via the High Administrative Court.

Eligibility to vote

Egyptian citizens have the right to vote starting 18 years of age. Article 2 of the political rights law (Law 45/2014) bans from voting those who suffer from mental disorders or are under judicial interdiction, or who have been convicted of a felony.

Active members of the Armed Forces and police are not allowed to vote unless they leave the service or retire. 

In 2015, the number of eligible voters in Egypt was at least 54 million.

The current population of Egypt, according to the latest census in 2017, is 94.98 million Egyptians inside the country and a further 9.4 million living abroad.  

Candidate eligibility

Article 141 of the constitution, as well as the presidential elections law of 2014, say that presidential candidates must meet the following requirements:

They should be an Egyptian citizen born to Egyptian parents, and neither they, their parents, nor their spouse may hold any other nationality.  

They must enjoy full civil and political rights, and must have performed national military service or have been exempted according to the law. 

They should not suffer from any physical or mental disease that could affect their ability to perform their presidential duties.  

They should be no less than 40 years old on the day of candidate registration.

They should not have received a final conviction for a felony or a crime involving immoral acts.

They must hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

Who are the candidates so far?  

President El-Sisi has not yet declared his intention to run for office in 2018. However, several unofficial popular support campaigns for his candidacy have been collecting endorsements from all over Egypt in recent weeks.  

The ‘So you can build it’ campaign says that it collected over 10 million endorsements of El-Sisi’s candidature so far. 

Over 500 MPs have also signed endorsements for El-Sisi.

In several interviews and speeches, El-Sisi has hinted that he will run if the public wants him to do so.  

In November 2017, Khaled Ali, a well-known labour and rights lawyer and the founder of the under-construction leftist Bread and Freedom Party, declared his intention to run.

The 45-year-old previously ran for president in the 2012 elections, where he came in seventh.

Ali has to collect the required MP or citizens' endorsements before 29 January.

However, Ali could be fail to become eligible to run in the elections if he loses an appeal against a three-month prison sentence he received in September 2017 for offending public decency. 

The lawyer was charged with the crime after allegedly making a rude hand gesture outside the State Council headquarters during a demonstration in January, which celebrated a legal victory against the now-in-effect April 2016 Egypt-Saudi border demarcation agreement. 

In October 2017, former MP Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat declared his intention to run for president, but he has not received much media attention.  

The liberal politician accused the government in December of preventing him from holding a press conference at a Cairo hotel to discuss his presidential candidacy.  

The founder of the Reform and Development Party was expelled from parliament in February 2017 for leaking a copy of the then-draft NGO law to foreign embassies.

El-Sadat has criticised the timetable of the presidential elections in statements to Russian-based Sputnik radio, describing it as too short.   

He has also alleged that the results of the elections have been pre-determined.  

Former Army Chief-of-Staff Sami Anan has also declared his candidacy as a member of the little-known Egypt Arabism Party.

The 69-year-old Anan had previously announced his intention to run in the 2014 election but eventually changed his mind.

The 2014 elections

President El-Sisi, whose current presidential term will end in June, won the 2014 presidential elections in a two-man race with nearly 97 percent of the vote.  

Many observers and analysts favour El-Sisi in the upcoming elections.

According to the constitution, presidents may serve a maximum of two terms.

El-Sisi’s rival in the 2014 elections, veteran Nasserite politician Hamdeen Sabahi, said earlier this month that he had no intention to run in 2018.


*This report was first published in January. Expats voted abroad 16-18 March.

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