Egypt wrapped up Wednesday a legislative election that spanned over six weeks but failed to mobilise a high turnout for a parliament expected to firmly back President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s iron-fisted policies. The election was marred by apathy in the absence of any opposition after Sisi crushed all forms of dissent since ousting his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Polling in a run-off for the second phase of voting in 13 of the country’s 27 provinces closed at 9:00 pm (0700 GMT), bringing an end to a weeks-long marathon electoral process.
On Oct. 24, Mostafa Abdelrahman stepped out of his home in al-Arish, the sandswept capital of Egypt’s North Sinai province. Within seconds, two men pulled up on a motorcycle and shot him dead. His campaign for parliament was over. The same day, five other candidates pulled out of the race. Abdelrahman’s death highlights the dangers of holding elections in a region where the Egyptian military is fighting militants affiliated to Islamic State who have killed hundreds of soldiers and police in the past two years. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi presents the vote as the last step towards restoring democracy, two years after he ousted Egypt’s first freely-elected president, Islamist Mohamed Mursi.
Egypt will soon complete the first round of parliamentary elections, including runoffs. Looking at the exclusion of candidates, these elections were undemocratic. Awakening U.S. Government critics is particularly likely looking at the State Department’s annual human rights report. At the start of this year, that report addressed last year’s 2014 election of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and said that the context was “not conducive to genuine democratic elections” and that “limits on the freedom of expression and assembly ‘impaired’ the process.” Similar criticism of the current 2015 parliamentary elections is likely to come from U.S. Government critics. Besides the State Department, another center of observation of Egyptian affairs has been in the U.S. Senate, particularly Senator Patrick Leahy, senior Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees aid funds to Egypt. Senator Leahy, voicing concerns similar to those quoted below, said to Forbes.com on November 9th that “free and fair elections are about far more than casting ballots. Just as important is the ability of opposition parties to organize and candidates to participate without interference in the months and weeks leading up to election day. Egypt today, where political parties are banned and their leaders imprisoned, makes a mockery of the most fundamental principles of democracy.”
Egyptians voted on Tuesday in run-off elections for more than 200 parliamentary seats in which no clear winner emerged in the first round of polls, with candidates loyal to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi widely expected to dominate. Only a quarter of the electorate turned up last week for round one of the election of Egypt’s first parliament in three years, the final step on a roadmap that is meant to lead Egypt to democracy but which critics say has been undermined by widespread repression. Egypt’s last parliament, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, was elected in 2011-12 in the first election after the popular uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. It was dissolved by a court in July 2012.
Egyptians cast their ballots Tuesday in a first round run-off of a parliamentary vote expected to elect lawmakers firmly backing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the absence of any opposition. Turnout for the first round held in 14 of Egypt’s 27 provinces last week was just 26.6 percent, and there was no sign of any increased enthusiasm among voters in the latest round. One polling station in Cairo’s Dokki district saw only 20 people vote in the hour after it opened at 9:00 am (0700 GMT), an official said. Voting stations closed 10 hours later, and are to reopen at 9:00 am Wednesday for a second and final day.
Egypt’s ongoing parliamentary elections – farcical in every sense, with a turnout so far of only 2 percent – are further proof that Egypt is witnessing the solidification of a quasi-authoritarian system of government, not a democratic revival. Most of Egypt’s new parliamentarians will be wealthy, elite, sympathetic to the nation’s current military president, and vehemently opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood, which governed Egypt during a brief democratic transition in 2012 and 2013. In short, this will be a rubber stamp parliament, one that will serve as a tool for – rather than a check against – Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Al-Sisi recently passed a new election law that effectively cancels out the influence of Egypt’s political parties. According to the law, nearly 80 percent of parliamentary seats will be allotted to individuals. This individual system, which helped Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak consolidate power in the 1980s and 1990s, privileges wealthy elites with ties to the Egyptian establishment, of which Al-Sisi is a card-carrying member.
The lack of interest, particularly from the young people who comprise the majority of Egypt’s population, contrasted with the long queues and youthful enthusiasm of the 2011-12 polls that followed the overthrow of veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak. “I’m not going to give my vote to someone who doesn’t deserve it,” said Michael Bassili, 19, from Alexandria. “As young people, we’re trying to fix the country and we’ll work to do this … but these guys are just interested in money and themselves.” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had personally urged Egyptians to use their vote, and the low turnout suggested the former general, who once enjoyed cult-like adulation, was losing some of his appeal.
Many Egyptian voters shunned the first phase of a parliamentary election on Sunday that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has hailed as a milestone on the road to democracy but his critics have branded as a sham. Polling stations visited by Reuters correspondents pointed to a turnout of around 10 percent, in sharp contrast to the long lines that formed in the 2012 election, suggesting that Sisi, who has enjoyed cult-like adulation, is losing popularity. Elderly supporters of Sisi comprised a large proportion of those turning out to vote, while younger Egyptians boycotted an election for a chamber they say will just rubber-stamp the president’s decisions.
Egypt will hold a long-awaited parliamentary election, starting on Oct. 18-19, the election commission said on Sunday, the final step in a process to bring back democracy that critics say has been tainted by widespread repression. Egypt has been without a parliament since June 2012 when a court dissolved the democratically elected main chamber, dominated by the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, reversing a major accomplishment of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The election had been due to begin in March but was delayed after a court ruled part of the election law unconstitutional. A second round of voting in the two-phase election will take place on Nov. 22-23, the election commission told a news conference. Voting for Egyptians abroad will take place on Oct. 17-18.