The election billboards of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi are everywhere in this bustling capital. They read: “Yalla Sissi” — “Go Sissi” in Arabic — urging him on for a second term. Egyptian voters will struggle to find a billboard for his only challenger. That obscure candidate, after all, said weeks ago that he wants Sissi to remain as president. Moussa Mostafa Moussa has so far not given speeches, made television commercials or bought newspaper ads seeking votes. On March 4, his first election rally was attended by no more than 25 supporters. As leader of the centrist Ghad Party, Moussa has been one of Sissi’s staunchest supporters and part of a well-orchestrated effort backing Sissi for a second term. Last weekend, Moussa told a state-owned television program that he doesn’t want to debate Sissi because he’s “not here to challenge the president.”
“He’s part of a play,” said Mohamed Anwar Sadat, a presidential contender who abruptly dropped out of the race in January. “He knows he has zero chance of winning.”
For many Egyptians, Sissi’s “campaign” is the latest sign of what critics say is the farce unfolding ahead of presidential elections scheduled for late this month. One former challenger, an ex-military general like Sissi, was thrown in jail. Others dropped out because of fear or intimidation. Another former candidate was arrested and accused of terrorism after criticizing the pre-election crackdown.
By ensuring his own victory, Sissi is tightening his grip on Egypt in ways never undertaken by his predecessors. Under President Hosni Mubarak, elections were marred by voter fraud, ballot stuffing and other irregularities, but a credible opposition nevertheless fielded candidates. The Muslim Brotherhood became the nation’s largest opposition bloc in parliament.