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Egyptians to vote in three-day presidential poll with a likely return of al-Sisi

By Melissa Chemam with RFI
Egypt  APChristophe Ena
DEC 8, 2023 LISTEN
© AP/Christophe Ena

Egyptians go to the polls between 10 and 12 December to elect a new president. Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is poised to secure a third term that would extend his rule into a second decade.

Approximately 67 million Egyptians above the age of 18 are eligible to vote, according to the election authority, out of a total population of 104 million.

Voting for Egyptians living abroad has already taken place, between 1 and 3 December.

An absolute majority is required to avoid a second round, with results due to be announced on 18 Dec. If there is no absolute majority a second poll will take place in early January.

Most observers predict another victory for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was announced winner of the previous two presidential elections with 97% of the votes, in 2014 and 2018.

But with fighting in Gaza at the eastern border and an ongoing economic crisis, 

Weak competitors

The political campaign wasn't easy with candidates denouncing unfair obstacles and arrests by the regime. 

Despite the odds, opponents are trying to beat the repression and run for office. 

Other candidates include three major names: Farid Zahran, head of the centre-left Egyptian Social Democratic party; Abdel Sanad Yamama, head of the liberal Al Wafd party; Hazem Omar, head of the Republican People's Party.

However, the most prominent potential opposition candidate withdrew in October: Ahmed al-Tantawy complained that dozens of his supporters had been arrested and that officials and pro-government thugs had hampered his campaign.

His complaint is being reviewed by the Egypt's National Election Authority (NEA), which already said such allegations were baseless.

Yet, the Cairo-based think tanks Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the  Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies confirmed that the crackdown on al-Tantawy's supporters "has intensified, with at least 73 campaign members detained in connection to charges of joining a subversive or terrorist group, spreading false news, and misusing social media."

The NEA is responsible for overseeing and managing all elections and referendums in Egypt.

The election will be held under the supervision of judges and accredited local observers.

Military grip

Following constitutional amendments in 2019, the presidential term was extended from four years  to six years.

The amendments also changed an outright bar on any president serving more than two terms, allowed Sisi to run for a third term.

Sisi is the fourth former military man to establish his grip on Egypt since Gamal Abdel Nasser toppled the monarchy in 1952 with the help of other army officers.

Nasser became president in 1954, and remained until he died in 1970. He was succeeded by Anwar al Sadat, who ruled until he was assassinated in 1981.

Sadat's deputy, Hosni Mubarak, then held power from 1981 until he was ousted in a popular uprising nearly three decades later.

Political analysts thus think that post-election events are of much greater importance that the poll itself.

In 2024, Egypt will have to repay a record $29 billion of outstanding debts, while inflation already is around 30% with no immediate signs of declining, affecting millions of households.

The president will have to manage the economic crisis and at the same time, impede any collateral impact of the Gaza war.

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