Several countries around the Middle East, most recently Iran, have held pivotal elections over the past few months. But, there is another important election in the next year to watch for: the Egyptian presidential election in the summer of 2018.
Current President Abdelfattah El Sisi is nearing the end of his first term. Sisi first took power following the removal of President Mohammed Morsi in a July 2013 coup and rose to the presidency in a virtually uncontested election in May 2014. For many observers and critics, the election was a sham. Sisi won with over 96% of the vote against contender, Hamdeen Al Sabahi (who openly praised El Sisi himself, even as he was campaigning).
The manipulation of election results is an old practice that has continued in Sisi’s Egypt. During the lead up to the referendum on a new constitution in January 2014, media supportive of the Egyptian state pushed an overwhelming campaign in favor of a “yes” vote. Those advocating on behalf of the “no” camp were arrested. The turnout was low for the two-day election, compared to previous recent elections. Only 38.6% turned out to vote.
As this next election season approaches, we can expect a similar type of “election” in Egypt. Since Morsi’s ouster, the state has systematically cracked down on political organizing. Everything from the anti-protest law that forbids large public gatherings, to the targeting of independent journalists, as well as those simply writing critical social media posts all favor an overwhelming win for Sisi.
The attack on political organizing and dissent is meant, in part, to solidify the military’s control over the state, which reportedly holds a stake in a third of Egypt’s economy. Since the military’s budget is classified, exact figures are not available, but, what is certain is that the military owns large swaths of real estate, factories, and other businesses.
The campaign season is set to being on March 2018, four months before election day, sometime during summer of 2018. Having failed to deliver on promises of economic prosperity and security, Sisi should be voted out of office. Unfortunately, however, systemic political repression guarantees his win, as well as the continued suffering of ordinary Egyptians and dissidents.