Awaiting Egypt's election results

Gamal Essam El-Din , Wednesday 13 Dec 2023

Egypt’s presidential elections concluded on Tuesday with high voter turnout.

Awaiting election results
Awaiting election results

 

The National Election Authority (NEA) announced on Tuesday the conclusion of the voting process for the presidential elections. Egyptians living abroad cast their ballots between 1 and 3 December.

According to NEA Executive Director Ahmed Bendari, the vote-counting process began immediately after the polling stations closed at 9pm on Tuesday. The results of the vote will be officially announced on 18 December.

Incumbent President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who is running for a third term in office, faces three challengers: Farid Zahran, chairman of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Abdel-Sanad Yamama, head of the Wafd Party, and Hazem Omar, head of the People’s Republican Party.

The ballot was conducted under full judicial supervision, with 15,000 judges recruited to supervise the poll nationwide. The NEA approved 22,340 local observers and 4,218 journalists to monitor the elections, said Bendari, as voters cast their ballots at 9,376 polling stations and 11,361 sub-stations between Sunday and Tuesday.

The State Information Service (SIS) reported that the elections were covered by 528 journalists from 33 countries.

Observers and monitors expect the turnout to be high. Thirty million people voted in the first two days of the ballot, Bendari told reporters on Monday. Around 45 per cent of eligible voters had cast their vote by the end of the second day, lower than the 2012 poll when 52 per cent voted and behind the 47.5 per cent turnout in 2014. Observers expected participation to pass 50 per cent by the time the polls close Tuesday night, with some speculating that it could reach 60 per cent.

“On the first day turnout rates were unprecedented in all governorates as voters enthusiastically cast their ballots in a climate of fair competition,” said Bendari.

The Egyptian Centre for Strategic Studies (ECSS) also reported impressive turnout at polling stations. “Our teams saw very active participation from female and youth voters in particular at most polling stations,” said the ECSS.

Mostaqbal Watan and Humat Watan parties, which had early declared their support for President Al-Sisi, were mobilised to rally voters. Volunteers guided citizens to polling stations, playing patriotic songs on loudspeakers. In many areas, buses were rented to transport pro-Sisi voters.

Al-Sisi’s campaign manager Mahmoud Fawzi said the impressive turnout reflected confidence in the country’s political leadership and judicial system.

People’s Republican Party candidate Omar said he was impressed by the crowds gathered in front of polling stations in Cairo and Giza to cast their ballots.

Zahran, who wore a black-and-white Palestinian keffiyeh scarf as he voted on Sunday, cautioned that while the turnout was high at polling stations in major cities, it was much smaller in towns and villages.

“The most important thing,” he said, “is that the vote was held in a fair and secure climate.” Zahran also praised the media for “its neutrality and impartiality”.

Wafd candidate Yamama said the high turnout reflected the fact the poll was competitive and that “Egyptians were keen to turn out and vote out of national duty and a belief in democracy.”

SIS head Diaa Rashwan said the election represented a step on the road to greater political openness and democratic transition.

Al-Sisi’s election campaign depended heavily on the support of the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan and Humat Watan parties which organised nationwide rallies and festooned streets with posters and billboards of President Al-Sisi.

Mostaqbal Watan’s Secretary-General Essam Hilal told Al-Ahram Weekly that the party had used the election to present President Al-Sisi as a bulwark of stability.

“There are civil wars and conflicts on our borders with Libya, Sudan, and now Gaza, posing a serious threat to our national security,” said Hilal. “Al-Sisi is the only one candidate who can provide security in these troubled times.”

Mohamed Anwar Al-Sadat, chairman of the Reform and Development Party, said “the election was never about who would win but about how many votes Al-Sisi secured, which candidate came second, and the level of turnout.”

Hamdeen Sabahi, leader of the Civilian Democratic Movement, described the poll as “a farce with a foregone conclusion”.

SIS head Rashwan dismissed Western reports of vote-buying during the three-day election, pointing out that “offering money or goods in return for votes is a criminal offence punishable by fines or prison.”

Suez Canal University professor of political economy Gamal Zahran noted that the election was held when most Egyptians are concerned with just two issues, the war in Gaza and the economy.

“Egyptians fear Israel’s ferocious assault on Gaza will force Palestinians to enter Sinai,” said Zahran, “and they think President Al-Sisi, as a former defence minister, is best placed to deal with the situation.”

“The three-day ballot also took place amid a severe economic crisis when household budgets are being mercilessly squeezed and people will wait eagerly to see how a re-elected Al-Sisi will tackle this situation.”

Commentators say the re-election of President Al-Sisi is likely to pave the way for a new deal with the IMF and a further devaluation of the Egyptian pound, a development that could feed inflation which fell to 38.5 per cent in October from a record 40.3 per cent in September. In the past nine months, the Egyptian pound lost more than 50 per cent of its value against the dollar.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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