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Egypt - Politics

Abdel Fattah el-Sissi was inaugurated June 08, 2014 as Egypt's eighth president, less than a year after he helped oust the country's first freely elected leader, Islamist Mohamed Morsi. Egypt's election commission said 03 June 2014 that Former Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi took nearly 97 percent of the vote in the Presidential race. Turnout was about 47 percent of Egypt's 54 million voters, the commission said - less than the 40 million votes, or 80 percent of the electorate, that Sissi had called for.

Preliminary results from the three-day extended vote gave Sissi more than 93 percent of ballots cast. Officials said about 46 percent of Egypt's 54 million eligible voters participated in the poll, less than the 52 percent turnout secured during the 2012 election of Mohamed Morsi. The Muslim Brotherhood urged a boycott of the vote.

Election officials said just 35 percent of the 54 million eligible voters cast ballots in the first two days of polls, a significant drop from 52 percent who participated during the 2012 election won by ousted Islamist Mohammed Morsi. A high turnout was seen as key to legitimizing Sissi's long-assumed win. The two-day vote was extended for a third day to allow for more participants. Despite the effort, polling in many areas still was reported low. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood had urged Egyptians to boycott the vote.

Egypt’s election commission announced 30 March 2014 that the first round of the presidential elections would take place on May 26 and 27. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army general who deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July last year, had announced his intention to run and was widely expected to win. The former army general, who toppled Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, faced a leftist politician in the presidential election, as they were the only candidates to enter before nominations closed, the committee organizing the vote said on 20 April 2014.

The committee had received paperwork from former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and former parliamentarian and presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, it said at a news conference several hours after the deadline had passed. Abdelaziz Salman, secretary-general of the Presidential Elections Committee, said that Sisi had submitted 188,930 signatures endorsing his candidacy to the committee, and Sabahi had submitted 31,555. The required number was 25,000. The committee announced the official list of candidates on May 2 for the vote on May 26-27. Sisi, whose popularity had soared since he deposed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer following massive protests, was expected to win the vote easily.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been overthrown, its leaders jailed or on the run, and the Egyptian military is again ruling the country. Egypt's army ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 and launched a crackdown on his supporters that left hundreds of people dead. The interim government then imposed a state of emergency and nightly curfew to restore control. At the same time, the military-backed government is moving ahead with a transition plan that envisions elections for a new president and parliament next year. Morsi was being held awaiting trial on charges of inciting murder and violence. Egyptian authorities acted November 13, 2013 to end the three-month state of emergency, a step that may help the army-backed government restore a semblance of normalcy after turmoil ignited by the military overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt's military-installed interim government criminalized the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood on 25 Decembe 2013, further cracking down on a movement that had risen to power in national elections in 2012r. Egypt's interim government declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, broadening its authority to move against the the country's largest opposition group. A spokesman for Egypt's Interior Ministry told government TV that anyone participating in Brotherhood protests would be sentenced to five years in prison. He added that leaders of the group could receive the death penalty.

Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour announced December 14, 2013 a referendum to ratify the country's new constitution. The scheduled January 14-15 vote was the first step on a roadmap back to democracy announced by the Egyptian military last July, following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. Egypt's High Election Commission said 18 January 2014 that nearly 39 percent of Egypt's 53 million eligible voters cast ballots in the two-day poll, a slightly higher number than had voted in 2012. Less than 250,000 ballots were deemed invalid. The results showed 98.1 percent of valid ballots approved the new constitution, with 1.9 percent of ballots against it.

Egypt's interim president announced 26 January 2014 a change in the country's political road map, placing presidential elections as the next step in the transition after the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. The plan was unveiled one day after clashes between police and protesters left 49 people killed, hundreds wounded and more than 1,000 arrested. While the 2013 road map placed parliamentary elections first, the newly approved constitution allowed Mansour to decide which comes first.

A popular groundswell and government-organized support for Defense Minister Abdel Fatah el-Sissi, who ousted the country's first freely-elected civilian president after mass protests against his rule, to run as president had been building in recent months. Other candidates who had expressed interest in running have qualified their bids, saying they would not take part if General Sissi campaigns.

Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi handed in his government's resignation 24 February 2014, amid increasing economic pressures, including a series of labor strikes. Beblawi had been expected to reorganize his Cabinet in the lead-up to presidential elections, but the resignation took many observers by surprise. Acting President Adly Mansour asked Beblawi to remain in a caretaker capacity and it was not immediately clear if a new government would be appointed before presidential elections, expected in April.

Egypt's president has named outgoing housing minister Ibrahim Mahlab as the country's new prime minister. Mahlab addressed said he hoped to have a new government in place within the “next three or four days.” Mahlab, was also an official in deposed President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.

Egyptians had been protesting almost continuously since demonstrations toppled the 30-year reign of Hosni long-time president Mubarak in February of 2011. But activist groups splintered, alliances shifted and competing protests across the country left more than 100 dead in July 2013 alone, one of the bloodiest periods, after the Egyptian military toppled President Morsi and put him under house arrest.

Neither side in the Egyptian conflict had shown much taste for reconciliation. Commenting on TV coverage, Rawya Rageh noted that "The rhetoric used by presenters and their guests, particularly on private stations – who Morsi had come at loggerheads with particularly during his last days in office – has gone beyond trying to isolate the Brotherhood and veered into the more serious territory of demonizing and dehumanizing them. Pro-Morsi sit-ins in the eastern and southern part of the capital have been repeatedly described as pools of filth covered in human excrement, and occupied by lice-ridden people with skin disease.... The Muslim Brotherhood’s channel Misr 25 and other TV stations backing Morsi were promptly shut down the day he was removed from office. They, too, had been engaged in a similar campaign of demonizing Morsi’s opposition for months ahead of the June 30 protests."

Egyptian political developments are seen by some as manifestations of what many inside and outside of academia have called the "deep state" - an elite which has manipulated and controlled the political system. The divisions plaguing Egypt often are portrayed as a struggle between those for and against ousted President Mohamed Morsi. But for those on Morsi's side, there appeared to be a far more sinister player on the scene - moving against whatever progress Egypt has seen since the 2011 uprising. The deep state - a concept rooted in the old Ottoman Empire and popularized in recent years in Turkey - pits conservatives against Islamists who would bring change. Even some opposed to both the Mubarak and the Morsi governments saw a deep state triumphant. Morsi was opposed by the judiciary, but also the media, the foreign office, the police force, the military, Al Azhar mosque and the church. And they resisted.

Mohamed Soudan, foreign secretary of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing said, “As soon as the Revolution of 25th of January started, there is a conspiracy against this revolution. There is a deep state. There is corruption. There is counter-revolution started also.” Soudan said this “deep state” aimed to revive everything the protesters on Tahrir Square two years ago tried sweep away. “Now the police state is coming back," he said. "The army state is coming back. The conspiracy of the former regime, Mubarak regime is coming back."

Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour called for the Muslim Brotherhood to join the military-led transition and take part in upcoming votes to decide on a new constitution, parliament, and president. But the Brotherhood refused, insisting that doing so would essentially be giving approval to what it views as a military coup against the government of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected leader. "The entire political process is nothing more than a sham. And participating in it gives it legitimacy," said Gehad El-Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, in an interview with VOA. It makes little sense, Haddad said, for the Brotherhood to try to win elections as it did for the past two years, if it is does not believe that Egypt's military will allow it to take power again. "There is no guarantee the military will not do this again," he said. "We've already gone through a presidential election, we've gone through parliamentary elections, we've gone through a constitutional referendum."

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