Presidential elections in a turbulent region

Nevine Mossaad
Saturday 23 Dec 2023

The results of Egypt’s 2024 presidential elections, with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi securing a new term, mark the timely accomplishment of a crucial constitutional milestone despite the escalating external threats facing Egypt from various directions.


While these threats have persisted since 2011, particularly with the upheavals in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, they have taken unprecedented dimensions this year. Whether through the intense conflict in Sudan between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces or more significantly, the ramifications cascading from Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on 7 October.

Reflecting on the previous presidential elections in 2018 reveals that regional threats stemmed from two primary sources. The first was US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in December 2017, and the Israeli Knesset's final approval of the Unified Jerusalem Law in early 2018.

These decisions not only contravened international resolutions rejecting any alteration of Jerusalem's status but also served as a ticking time bomb, given the steadfast Palestinian and Arab refusal to compromise on Jerusalem.

The second source of regional threats was Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran in May 2018. This withdrawal heightened tensions in the Middle East, considering Iran's capability to destabilize its various spheres of influence in the region.

Thus, there were serious and genuine regional threats during the preparation for the Egyptian presidential elections. However, most world nations opposed altering Jerusalem's status, and the nuclear deal signatories pledged to compensate Iran for U.S. economic sanctions, creating a sense of feasibility for Iran.

What unfolded after 7 October was notably different for two reasons. Firstly, the systematic genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza by the occupying forces could only deepen the spirit of Palestinian national resistance, irrespective of affiliation with Hamas. This extended the Palestinian-Israeli conflict duration indefinitely.

Secondly, plans for the forced displacement of Palestinians toward neighboring countries, signaling the potential resolution of the Palestinian issue, transitioned from closed Israeli chambers to public acknowledgment, with some European countries endorsing such plans.

This unprecedented level of threat to Egyptian and Arab national security prompted calls to postpone the Egyptian presidential elections, citing the need to fully address the severe developments on Egypt's eastern borders. Such calls, however, were disingenuous attempts to portray Egypt as incapable of managing its internal affairs due to external threats. Egypt, amid a wave of heinous terrorism following the 30 June Revolution in 2013, demonstrated its ability to conduct presidential and parliamentary elections successfully.

On the other hand, countries like Iraq, directly impacted by the Israeli aggression on Gaza, did not hesitate to hold provincial elections on 16 and 18 December. Egypt followed suit, demonstrating its diplomatic efforts for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and hostage release negotiations, alongside meticulous preparations for presidential elections nationwide.

The elections proceeded smoothly, marked by substantial ease. My experience as an observer for the National Council for Human Rights aligned with colleagues' observations in other regions. Overall, there was regularity in the voting process, excellent security at polling stations, substantial voter turnout reflecting Egyptians' national responsibility amid external threats, facilitation of observers' entry to verify procedures, and minimal electoral violations reflected in the absence of complaints in the results.

Now, with President El-Sisi's significant victory, Egypt’s focus must shift to the future. El-Sisi’s electoral vision emphasizes human development. I envision the restart of national dialogue and its resumption as a crucial tool in the human development process. This is due to the multitude of dialogue dimensions, encompassing political, economic, and social aspects. Such dialogues have historically fostered consensus among Egyptians and instigated notable societal progress, needing rejuvenation.

Additionally, valuable proposals emerged from these dialogues, demanding activation for a qualitative leap in the democratic evolution crucial for human development.

*The writer is a professor of political science at Cairo University

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