Egyptians voted last week in an election eclipsed by the war in neighboring Gaza, with incumbent El-Sisi guaranteed another term in the absence of a serious challenger and despite growing economic woes. His strongest competitor picked up about 4.5% of the vote, officials said.
The three days of voting took place as Egypt grapples with the worst economic crisis in years, with a growing debt burden, repeated currency devaluations and soaring living costs that rendered Egyptians worse off. Many people blame heavy state spending on infrastructure and mega-projects, including a multibillion-dollar new capital east of Cairo.
But the war in Gaza, on Egypt’s eastern border, has largely deflected people’s attention away from the economy.
Wafaa Hassan, 43, housewife, said her focus has now shifted to security.
“I’m against rising prices and economic polices crushing the people but I want President [El-Sisi] for security and stability. This is the priority now,” she told ABC News outside her polling station in the Cairo suburb of Maadi.
Before the war in Gaza began, she had been meaning to give her vote to “someone new,” she said.
Hassan is one of many Egyptians who fear a spillover from the war would undermine national security.
El-Sisi, a former army chief, came to power about a decade ago after leading the overthrow of elected but divisive Islamist President Mohamed Morsi amid mass protests. In the 2014 and 2018 elections, El-Sisi won landslide victories of 97% percent of the vote.
Three little-known candidates are running against him: Farid Zahran, head of the left-leaning Egyptian Social Democratic party; Abdel Sanad Yamama, of Egypt’s oldest party Al Wafd; and Hazem Omar, head of the Republican People’s Party.
Civil servant Azza El-Dorry, 60, said only El-Sisi can steer the country through a difficult period.
“The president is the most fit for this critical phase when Egypt is facing many domestic and regional challenges,” she said. “Anyone else would not come with a magic want to fix things.”
The most prominent potential challenger to El-Sisi, former lawmaker and leftist politician Ahmed Al-Tantawy, pulled out in October saying authorities prevented his supporters from registering their endorsements to his candidacy. The electoral commission dismissed the allegations.
He is now facing trial on charges of illicitly circulating election-related forms.
Some 67 million Egyptians were eligible to vote out of a total population of nearly 106 million.
Loudspeakers blasted out patriotic songs outside polling stations in Cairo and Giza. El-Sisi supporters were seen waving the Egyptian flag and wearing caps bearing his picture.
In an effort to enthuse voters, the election commission sent text messages to voters’ mobile phones to remind them of their responsibility to take part in the vote. Officials and local pro-government media outlets had been urging Egyptians to turn out.
At a polling station in Giza, Mona Reda, 39, said she had voted partly because her employer had asked her to, but also because “it’s our duty.” She said the state-owned oil company where she works required staff to provide a proof of photos of themselves at polling stations with ink stains on fingers indicating they had voted.
“The key challenge now will be the level of turnout to prove people care and see real contenders and that the president has huge popularity,” opposition politician and former lawmaker Anwar El-Sadat told ABC News.
Local TV footage showed El-Sisi casting his vote at a school in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis as soon as the polls opened. He had called on Egyptians to take part to choose whoever is suitable for the top post and promised to keep working hard if he wins.
Critics dismissed the vote as a theatre amid a far-reaching crackdown on dissent. Authorities say the crackdown was necessary to restore stability and combat terrorism.
For some voters, economic pressures remain the overriding concern.
One of a few young voters at a Cairo polling station, Mohamed Hatem, 19, said: “For me and all my friends, the rising cost of living is a key issue; it is affecting our generation the most as we struggle to build our future.
Source : ABC News