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Egypt's Sisi secures third term in widely expected election win

By AFP
Egypt Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won his third and, according to the constitution, final term in office, starting in April and set to run for six years.  By Christophe Ena POOLAFP
DEC 18, 2023 LISTEN
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi won his third and, according to the constitution, final term in office, starting in April and set to run for six years. By Christophe Ena (POOL/AFP)

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has won a third term with 89.6 percent of the vote in the Arab world's most populous nation, the national election authority said Monday.

The outcome of the December 10-12 poll was widely expected after the former army chief with a fondness for infrastructure mega-projects campaigned against a small field of relative unknowns.

It secures 69-year-old Sisi his third and, according to the Egyptian constitution, final term in office, starting in April and set to run for six years.

His victory comes despite a painful economic crisis, marked by a currency plunge and runaway household prices, and heightened regional tensions sparked by the Israel-Hamas war in neighbouring Gaza.

Annual inflation is running at 36.4 percent, sending up prices of some food staples by the week and hurting household budgets in the country of nearly 106 million.

Even before the current economic crisis, about two thirds of Egypt's population were living on or below the poverty line.

A decade-long crackdown on dissent had eliminated any serious competition for Sisi, Egypt's fifth president to emerge from within the ranks of the military since 1952.

It was the third time in a decade Sisi wins a landslide victory, albeit with his smallest margin. In both 2014 and 2018, Sisi won over 96 percent of the vote.

Retired field marshall

Campaign billboards for Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are seen in Cairo on December 7, 2023.  By Khaled DESOUKI AFPFile Campaign billboards for Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are seen in Cairo on December 7, 2023. By Khaled DESOUKI (AFP/File)

The runner-up Hazem Omar, who leads the Republican People's Party, received 4.5 percent of the vote.

Next came Farid Zahran, leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and Abdel-Sanad Yamama from the Wafd, a century-old but relatively marginal party.

The election authority said turnout was "unprecedented" at 66.8 percent of 67 million registered voters. This was up from 41 percent in 2018 and 47 percent in 2014.

In much of Cairo, however, the only sign Egypt was holding an election were the ubiquitous campaign posters for Sisi, while banners for other candidates were few and far between.

Several voters told AFP they "did not know the other candidates", while much of the country ignored the polls entirely.

Sisi, a retired army field marshall, was first voted in as president after leading the overthrow of elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

He later extended the presidential mandate from four to six years and amended the constitution to raise the limit on consecutive terms from two to three years.

His administration has overseen the imprisonment of tens of thousands of political opponents as the space for dissent has been progressively curtailed.

The all-but-decimated opposition had built some momentum this year ahead of the election, before media and public attention were diverted by the Gaza war.

For a brief while, some expected the election to include two main opposition figures who -- despite having no real hope of winning -- were intended to highlight dissident voices.

Today, one is in prison and the other is awaiting trial.

Fresh devaluation

A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency on December 10, 2023 shows President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi casting his vote in Cairo.  By Handout Egyptian PresidencyAFPFile A handout picture released by the Egyptian Presidency on December 10, 2023 shows President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi casting his vote in Cairo. By Handout (Egyptian Presidency/AFP/File)

When he was first elected, the president's popularity was dubbed "Sisimania" and adoring supporters put his image on everything from baked goods to key chains.

The enthusiasm has ebbed from those highs but Sisi is not without his supporters.

He is credited with engineering a return to public order after a period of Islamist political violence and chaos that followed the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak.

From 2016 onward, he undertook a host of economic reforms in pursuit of loans from the International Monetary Fund that have required severe austerity measures and multiple currency devaluations.

Those policies, coupled with expensive mega projects -- including a $58 billion-dollar new capital city in the desert east of Cairo -- have more than tripled Egypt's debt.

Virtually all imports to Egypt are paid for in dollars, and a severe foreign currency shortage has caused a parallel market to surge and pushed up consumer prices.

Nearly a decade after Sisi first promised Egyptians security and prosperity, the economy is in freefall.

The election was initially expected in the spring of 2024. But experts have said Sisi wanted to secure a third term before enacting another widely expected currency devaluation that is expected to fuel public discontent.

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