Egypt - Presidential Election - May 2018
Egypt held its presidential elections between March 26 and 28 this year, plans the election commission announced 08 January 2018. First round results were to be announced on April 2, and a runoff election would take place April 24-26, if needed. The country's general-turned-president Abdel Fattah el-Sissi was widely expected to win. El-Sisi won a second term with 97 percent of the vote in an election in which 41 percent of the electorate cast their ballots, official results showed.
El-Sisi received phone calls from international allies, including Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The White House said in a statement that Trump congratulated the Egyptian president and “the two leaders affirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt.”
Preliminary results showed that President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi had been re-elected with 92 percent of the vote. The president's little-known opponent, Moussa Mustapha Moussa, won about two percent. About 23 million of Egypt's 60 million registered voters turned out to vote during three days of balloting. The 40 percent turnout was down from 47 percent during the 2014 presidential election, causing some disappointment among government supporters. Two million voters also cast ballots for candidates who were not on the ballot. A number of opposition parties, including the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, called on Egyptian voters not to go to the polls. Some voters apparently heeded the call not to vote, while others appeared apathetic about the political process in general.
According to a 2016 Human Rights Watch report, between the July 2013 coup and May 2014, at least 41,000 people were either arrested or charged, and over 25,000 more may have been arrested since 2015. Amnesty International reported how the Egyptian National Security Agency abducts, tortures and disappears people, including children, to “intimidate opponents and wipe out peaceful dissent.” Some torture tactics include beatings, electric shocks, rape and sexual abuse, use of stress positions, and more. Reports have also emerged of detainees dying during or soon after release from detention.
President Abdel Fattah el Sisi, who initially came to power in a 2013 coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi, country’s first democratically elected president, ran virtually unopposed, after nearly all candidates withdrew due to intimidation and pressure or were arrested. Sisi's sole challenger in the March 26-28 vote is Musa Mustafa Musa, a longtime Sisi supporter, widely dismissed as a dummy candidate; Musa's Ghad Party had actually endorsed Sisi for a second term before he emerged as a last-minute challenger.
Egyptian media reported spotty turnout, with local correspondents claiming "heavy participation" in Egypt's second largest city of Alexandria, and low turnout in the southern tourist locale of Luxor, where a heat wave appeared to be keeping some away from the polls. With presidential elections taking, the Egyptian people were exposed to the government's blatantly wrong statements which highlight so-called economic achievements.
Leaders of opposition parties who called for a boycott of the vote were investigated on allegations they are seeking to destabilise the country. Over a dozen international and regional rights groups issued a joint statement on 12 February 2018, saying that the upcoming election did not meet the "minimum requirements" for a fair and free vote and called on Cairo's Western allies to denounce the "farcical" election. The 14 groups, which include Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, said Sisi's government had "suppressed freedoms, arrested potential candidates and rounded up their supporters."
The Egyptian presidential election of 2018, initially scheduled for May, was the most important event in the minds of many Egyptians. Incumbent President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is the sixth president of Egypt. He came to office in June 2014 after the June 30 Revolution, which toppled former President Mohamed Morsi, who is affiliated with the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.
Sisi's sole challenger was Ghad Party chairman Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who was effectively the president's campaign manager before announcing a last-minute bid to enter the race. Candidates one by one dropped out of the race; the opposition boycotted the vote; and the sole challenger to the incumbent president was no more than his staunch supporter. With two months to go before the vote, there was much controversy surrounding the race to presidency, with almost all candidates quitting at some point under mysterious circumstances.
- Ahmed Shafiq, Egypt's former prime minister -- the last to serve as part of the administration of long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak -- announced his bid in late November 2017 from the United Arab Emirates, where he had lived in exile since losing a face-off with Morsi. The former Air Force general, who was seen as Sisi's most powerful rival, withdrew his bid after the UAE suddenly decided to deport him back to Egypt, where he disappeared from public view for 24 hours and told a TV host upon return that he was reconsidering his bid. In a dramatic walk back from his stinging candidacy statement, Shafiq said his time in exile "may have kept me away from carefully following updates in the homeland, of progress and accomplishments."
- Mohammad Anwar Sadat, after announcing a much-anticipated bid to stand, the 62-year-old nephew of Egypt's assassinated ruler Anwar Sadat backed out of the race earlier this month, citing fears for the safety of his supporters, whom he claimed had been chased away by Sisi's elements. "People who volunteered to collect votes of confidence were scared away," Sadat said. "I'm scared for the young men and women and don't want to expose them to this, because we won't be able to do anything for them."
- Ahmed Konsowa, shortly after announcing his bid, Colonel Konsowa of the army was court-martialed and handed a six-year prison term for "stating political opinions contrary to the requirements of military order," according to his lawyer.
- General Sami Anan, a former Egyptian armed forces chief of staff said on 20 January 2018 that he would challenge fellow military man Abdel Fattah al Sisi for the presidency in March. General Anan's announcement came just hours after Sisi publicly confirmed he would seek a second term in the March 26-28 election, the third since the 2011 overthrow of longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak. General Sami Anan served as armed forces chief of staff from 2005 to 2012. Analysts say his candidacy might attract Egyptians nostalgic for the relative stability of the pre-2011 overthrow of longtime strongman leader Hosni Mubarak. "This is all the result of wrong policies which have put all the responsibilities on the armed forces without rational policies that would enable the civilian sector of the state to carry out its role in full, alongside the role of the armed forces," he said. Anan said he had already put in place a team of civilians to support his bid, including Hisham Geneina, a former head of Egypt's anti-corruption watchdog who was sacked by Sisi in 2016 after publishing a damning report that put the losses from graft at more than $100 billion. But the bid was short-lived since Anan and members of his campaign were arrested. Sami Anan was arrested by soldiers on 23 January 2018. Army commanders say the former army chief of staff broke the law by not getting permission to declare his candidacy. Mahmoud Refaat, a spokesman for Anan's campaign abroad, said the government had even arrested family members of pro-Anan campaigners.
- Khaled Ali, the prominent rights lawyer ended his presidential bid in late January, hours after Sisi submitted his nomination documents, and a day after Anan was arrested by the military. Ali told a press conference that "the opportunity for hope in this presidential election has gone."
Having called the elections "absurd," eight opposition parties have already signed a joint declaration, asking voters to boycott the vote, arguing that Sisi is getting in the way of "any fair competition." Hamdeen Sabahi, who ran against Sisi in the 2014 election, has been credited with launching the campaign with the slogan "Stay at home," urging political parties to fight back against the president's "brutal tyranny of power."
"It is not right for us to surrender to what has become an absurdity bordering on madness," said Abdel-Geleel Mustafa, another leading opposition figure.
The calls for boycott have been met with a strong warning from Sisi. "Be warned. What happened seven or eight years ago, will not happen again in Egypt," the president said, referring to mass protests that took place in 2011 and ended Mubarak's rule. Sisi is no stranger to cracking down on dissent, with Morsi's supporters being his main target. The heavy-handed crackdown has, according to rights groups, killed over 1,400 people. The government has also sentenced some 200 people to death in mass trials.
The constitution, penal code, and media and publications law govern media issues. The government regulated the licensing of newspapers and controlled the printing and distribution of a majority of newspapers, including private newspapers and those of opposition political parties. The law does not impose restrictions on newspaper ownership. The more than 20 state-owned media outlets broadly supported official state policy. According to media reports and local and international human rights groups, state and nonstate actors arrested and imprisoned, harassed, and intimidated journalists. Some activists and many journalists reported privately they self-censored criticism of the government or comments that could be perceived as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood, due to the overall anti-Muslim Brotherhood and pro-government media environment.
The law allows government censors to block the publication of information related to intelligence and national security. Judges may issue and have issued restraint orders to prevent media from covering court cases considered sensitive on national security grounds. Rights groups stated authorities sometimes misused the orders to shield government, police, or military officials from public scrutiny.
The constitution provides for freedom of assembly “according to notification regulated by law.” Authorities implemented a 2013 demonstrations law that includes an expansive list of prohibited activities and gives the minister of interior the authority to prohibit or curtail planned demonstrations. Domestic and international human rights organizations asserted the law was not in keeping with international standards regarding freedom of assembly. There were protests throughout the year 2016 that varied widely in size, and some occurred without government interference. In other cases the government rigorously enforced the law restricting demonstrations, even in cases of small groups of protesters demonstrating peacefully.
Under Sisi, Egyptians continue to experience increased suppression of rights, civil liberties, media and civil society. International human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International document the widespread arrest of political opponents – particularly against the Muslim Brotherhood – routine torture, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, among other issues.
Research center Daftar Ahwal reported at least 37,059 cases of individuals being stopped, arrested, or charged under the protest law between November 2013 and September. Of these, authorities charged 15,491 individuals under the protest law resulting in 6,382 convictions and 5,083 acquittals.
The Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, remained banned. Authorities did not ban other Islamist parties, including the Strong Egypt Party and the Building and Development Party, although those parties boycotted the 2015 parliamentary elections, citing a “negative political environment.” The Islamist al-Noor Party participated, winning 11 seats. In September, citing lack of jurisdiction, a court dismissed a lawsuit filed by a private individual demanding the dissolution of the al-Noor Party, among other parties alleged to have formed on a religious basis.
Websites and news outlets that publish such information about Egypt are censored. In September, Cairo blocked access to the Human Rights Watch website after it released a report saying that there was systemic torture in the country’s jails.
Dozens of websites, including news sites like Al Jazeera, Huffington Post Arabic, Daily Sabah, as well as Egyptian sites like Mada Masr and Daily News Egypt were also blocked. The blocking of Al Borsa, a widely read financial newspaper that generally steers clear of politics and reflects the views of a largely pro-state business community, suggests a more expansive attempt to control private media coverage.
Anti-terrorism laws enacted in 2013 also limit the media in Egypt through its broad definition of terrorism. A 2015 law further punished media for disseminating "false reports" or reports that were not in line with official statements.
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