The Egyptian elections are an attempt by General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to “legitimise a violent dictatorial regime”, head of the Egyptian Revolutionary Council Maha Azzam has said. As polling booths across the country open on Monday, Al-Sisi is widely expected to secure victory.
Leader of the Ghad party, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, is Al-Sisi’s only contender after the opposition candidates Sami Anan, Anwar Sadat and Ahmed Shafiq were bullied out of the race. Former prime minister Shafiq has now publically endorsed Al-Sisi for president.
Moussa’s candidacy has been widely criticised as a token presidency bid to give the appearance of a democratic contest as he has endorsed Al-Sisi for a second term, both prior to his bid and after.
Days ahead of the elections, Al-Sisi himself said that he wishes there were ten candidates standing against him but that Egyptians are not ready for democracy. He has also asked the Egyptian people for $2 trillion to help rebuild Egypt.
Earlier this week Egyptian MP Mostafa Bakry offered to cut off his head if Al-Sisi asked him to do so. Speaking at a mass conference Bakry called on Egyptians to participate in the elections scheduled for next week.
Al-Sisi won the elections in 2014 with 97 per cent of the vote but voter turnout was low. There is fear among ruling authorities that this year will be no different, which will undermine the legitimacy of the government. In an attempt to counter this, says Azzam, a state propaganda campaign is in “full swing”:
“[This has] involved a great deal of fear-mongering, intimidation and vicious character assassination of anyone who questions the legitimacy of the single candidate election as unpatriotic and a threat to the integrity and stability of the State.”
On Wednesday a Human Rights Watch official said that an intensified crackdown in Egypt is paving the way for Sisi’s long-term rule. The government has barred journalists from conducting polls asking who they are planning to vote for, arrested several reporters and blocked a number of news websites.
A lawsuit has been filed demanding BBC reporter Orla Guerin is expelled from Egypt and for a boycott of the network until it issues a formal apology over a report published at the end of February which interviewed the families of torture victims and the forcibly disappeared.
Egypt is already considered the third worst jailer of journalists worldwide. Since 2015, death penalty sentences have increased as have the number of civilians being tried in military courts.
Fourteen international and regional rights organisations have declared that Al-Sisi has stifled basic freedoms, says Azzam. “For the sake of upholding at the very least some semblance of respect for democratic values and human rights the international community must speak out openly against the abuse of power by the current military regime in Egypt.”
A coalition of Egyptian opposition groups have called to boycott the elections which they describe as “an absurdity bordering on madness”.