Egypt’s first Presidential election since the 30th June 2013 revolution is over. It is of no surprise that the popular ex-army chief Field Marshall Al-Sisi is set to be announced officially as the winner of the election with a clear majority of 93% with 23,851,361 voting for Al-Sisi.
A total of 25,597,377 participated in the presidential election over a 3 day period commencing 26 May and ending on 28 May. The Egyptian authorities announced a third day extension of voting to boost the unexpected low turnout in the first two days. The total participation rate – 47% of all eligible voters, – was lower than expected. Al-Sisi had set high expectations in his final interviews before the poll calling for 40 million or more to come out and cast their vote.
Notwithstanding, the voter turnout is comparable with the turnout in the previous presidential election which brought Mohammed Morsi to power where over 26 million Egyptians casted their votes. Moreover, the voter turnout exceeded the turnout for the constitutional referendum in January earlier this year where 20 million Egyptians took part in approving the new constitution. What these figures show is that the lesser than expected voter turnout does not derogate from the democratic legitimacy of Al-Sisi’s election as president.
While this election was not as hotly contested as the previous one, the ACM believes that this reflects the general consensus in Egypt that Al-Sisi’s election was a foregone conclusion given his popularity. This is confirmed by his resounding and convincing victory in this election which stands in stark contrast to the previous electoral victory of Mohammed Morsi.
The ACM’s understanding is that the election was fair and conducted properly. We are unaware of any credible reports of state manipulation or interference in the voting process.
The ACM had confirmed with eye witnesses in Cairo that there has been a marked improvement in the voting process compared to the previous election such as a quicker turnaround at the polling booths resulting in fewer crowds. Moreover, there are no credible reports of voter manipulation by political parties involved in this election. The ACM notes that in the previous election, there were reports of the Muslim Brotherhood attempting to bribe uninformed and uneducated voters through the provision of staples and foods.
The election was observed by representatives of the African Union, European Union and the Arab league. A team of European Union observers stated that the elections were generally free and peaceful however they cited media bias in the lead up to the election claiming that Al-Sisi was allocated twice as much media coverage as Sabahi.
While this criticism is warranted in the sense that the democratic process requires the electorate to be informed of the agenda of credible presidential candidates, the ACM opines that there is nothing to suggest Sabahi would have been able to resist a landslide electoral defeat if he had been granted greater exposure in the media given the immense popularity of Al-Sisi.
The ACM also notes and applauds the unprecedented security operation initiated to protect voters against the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks. Sherine Tadros of Sky News reported that up to 400,000 police and army soldiers were deployed in a massive operation that also include road closures around the 14,000 polling booths across Egypt. Despite this, there are reports of at least 2 deaths including a judge and a pro-sisi campaigner, although the Consulate-General of Egypt in Sydney has been unable to confirm the credibility of these reports. The success of this security operation is in part illustrated by the fact that unlike in previous elections, there have been no reports of any attacks or intimidation directed at Coptic Christians to the south of the country however this was only possible due to security forces providing armed escorts for Coptic voters south of Cairo.
The ACM wishes Al-Sisi well as he prepares to face the myriad of challenges that confront Egypt and hope that upon stabilising Egypt, he facilitates Egypt’s transition to a mature, pluralistic and civilian democracy. In particular, we hope that Al-Sisi will address issues that are affecting the Coptic Christian minority, from institutionalised discrimination, justice for all crimes committed against Copts and the reprehensible abduction and forced conversion of Coptic Christian girls. We hope that he will be an inclusive leader who ensures justice prevails for all Egyptians regardless of their race, religion, sex or political persuasion. We look forward to working with the new Egyptian cabinet via their mission in Australia on these serious issues.
The Australian Coptic Movement Association