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Egyptian President El-Sisi Seeking Third Term In Current Presidential Polls


By Girish Linganna

The Egyptian presidential election is set to occur over a three-day period that began on Sunday (December 10, 2023). From December 1-3, non-resident Egyptians had cast their votes at 121 of the country's embassies and consulates globally.

Ten years after seizing power in a coup, Egypt's President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is getting ready to seek a third term. In October, el-Sisi declared his candidacy after a three-day conference with the theme, ‘Story of a Homeland', where he showcased his achievements in the earlier two terms.

Despite presiding over an in sharp decline and being at the receiving end of criticism from Western allies and human rights organizations due to his track record in human rights, the former defence minister remains the clear frontrunner.

El-Sisi had held the position of Egypt's defence minister from 2012-2013 and served as deputy prime minister from 2013-2014. In both roles, he was a general in the Egyptian Army and served as the Director of Military Intelligence from 2010. In 2014, el-Sisi relinquished his military post to run for presidency as being a member of the armed forces disqualified him from standing for election.

He is now running as an Independent candidate, breaking his 2018 promise not to seek a third term. In this election, there are three candidates competing against el-Sisi.

The first is Abdel Sanad Yamama, heading the liberal Wafd Party, who is running under the slogan, ‘Save Egypt', because, in his view, Egypt is in “need of salvation”. Yamama expressed his wish to enhance Egypt's economy and education while ensuring the legal system is protected from what he describes as interference by the executive branch.

The next, or the second, contender is Hazem Omar, who declared his candidacy in October. Omar heads the Republican People's Party and is a prosperous entrepreneur overseeing a company. Earlier, he held the position of Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in Egypt's Senate while serving in the government. Omar is seen as a supporter of el-Sisi because he has not publicly disagreed with the president over the past decade.

The last, and final, contender is Farid Zahran, leading the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. Having been part of Egypt's Leftist students' movement in the 1970s, Zahran now pledges to enhance the living standards of all Egyptians if he wins the election. The 66-year-old is also thought to have a close relationship with el-Sisi and the security services. He played a role in establishing el-Sisi's Cabinet following the 2013 coup against Egypt's democratically elected President, Mohamad Morsi.

Similar to past elections, it is anticipated that el-Sisi will secure a significant victory. Previously, he had pledged to restore Egypt's stability following a period of unrest from 2011-2013. Throughout his decade in power, his administration has faced allegations of significantly limiting press freedom, imprisoning dissenting voices and intimidating potential candidates seen as a challenge, as reported by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty .

In May 2023, a candidate with Left-leaning views, Ahmad Tantawi, had declared he would run for president. According to Egyptian regulations, he had to either gather 25,000 signatures from 15 distinct governorates or receive support from 20 members of Parliament. Tantawi attempted to collect the necessary signatures. In September, Egypt's Interior Ministry put enormous pressure on the potential supporters of Tantawi. He finally could not contest.

Egypt's Election Authority affirmed that all processes adhered to international standards for a fair and open election. Tantawi, however, asserted that Egypt's security forces compelled him to withdraw his name in October. Observers and experts had doubted Tantawi's chances of defeating el-Sisi. Yet, they believed his campaign could have expanded the scope for civic engagement in Egypt.

Nancy Okail, head of the Center for International Policy, mentioned to al-Jazeera that el-Sisi might face embarrassment if the voter turnout is low. This is why they resort to familiar tactics of intimidation and bribery: pressuring teachers and civil workers to vote under threat, offering money to individuals and arranging transportation to ensure large crowds turn up and participate in the voting process,” she explained to al-Jazeera.

In the past two months, Amnesty International discovered that the Egyptian government had detained a minimum of 196 individuals on allegations linked to involvement in unauthorized protests, spreading false information and engaging in terrorism.

Originally set for April 2024, Egypt's presidential election was advanced to an earlier date by el-Sisi. Mostafa al-A'sar, a non-resident fellow at the non-profit Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, while emphasizing Arab perspectives in policy discussions, mentioned that el-Sisi aimed to secure re-election before implementing harsh economic measures. He clarified that el-Sisi was seeking a fresh electoral win to legitimize his ability to quell potential opposition arising from his economic decisions. The election serves as a means to regain legitimacy.

Over the past decade, el-Sisi has taken loans from international lenders to fund various initiatives, including a new administrative capital. His liberal spending has caused Egypt's foreign debt to increase fourfold, and will require over $28 billion to cover next year's repayments alone. The IMF had provided Egypt with a $3-billion loan, but the programme faced challenges because el-Sisi was hesitant to sell state assets and let an already devalued currency float.

Despite the difficulties, al-Sisi disregarded public frustration over increasing prices, which are causing essential food items, such as bread, to become unaffordable. He urged Egyptians to make sacrifices to contribute to the country's journey towards future prosperity.

In October, he stated that, if achieving progress, prosperity and development meant facing hunger and deprivation, Egyptians would not hesitate to pursue progress, even if it meant sacrificing the idea that it is better to eat. Okail thinks the key audience for the election includes Western states and high-ranking military officers seeking reassurance about el-Sisi's stability. (IPA Service)


(The author is a Defence, Aerospace & Political Analyst based in Bengaluru.)




The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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