Egyptians head to the polls Monday to vote in the first presidential election since former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted from power last summer. Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is expected to win.
Sisi is the chief commander of the Supreme Council on Armed Forces, Egypt’s army, and the main strategist in Morsi’s ousting. On July 3, 2013, Sisi removed Morsi from power, suspended the constitution and appointed Adly Mansour, the former chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the interim president. Although Mansour has had the title, Sisi, with control of the army, has been the one with the power.
This will be the seventh election Egypt has seen since 2011, but only two candidates are running this time around, most likely because the chance of anyone other than Sisi winning is slim.
The second candidate, the left-leaning Hamdeen Sabahi, also ran in the 2012 election against Morsi but finished third. He has said that if he wins, he would focus on building new roads, housing, airports, and ending the energy crisis. But he told the BBC Friday that the election contest is “not a fair fight.”
And indeed, Egypt does not have a good track record when it comes to elections. For decades, former president Hosni Mubarak, who was recently sentenced to three years in jail, won by stuffing ballot boxes. And although Morsi was elected in a vote hailed by the international community as basically fair, he did not implement a true democracy while in office. In one year, Morsi appointed those close to him to key positions in the government and pushed through a new constitution that reflected the ideals of Islamic law.
Many Egyptians favor Sisi for rescuing the country from Sharia law, and think that he will restore stability. But according to a poll by the Pew Research Center, only a slight majority of Egyptians favor him.
The poll, based on interviews with 1,000 adults throughout Egypt, found that 54 percent of responded positively about Sisi, while 45 percent viewed him unfavorably. Four out of 10 Egyptians still have a favorable view of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sisi has yet to indicate what he hopes to accomplish if he wins the presidency, and many observers fear that Egypt will continue on its current path. The country’s economy is in shambles in large part because of a severe energy shortage; the military consistently evades international law by sentencing hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death; and the tourism industry, which used to be one of the country’s main cash generators, is nearly nonexistent. The security situation in Sinai is becoming increasingly dangerous.
“Egypt is likely to continue to face a downward spiral of human-rights abuses following the presidential elections, after candidates failed to commit to much-needed reforms to ensure those responsible for abuse face justice,” said a statement released Friday by Amnesty International.
Yet while the international community worries about the political ramifications of a Sisi victory, Egyptians seem more concerned about how long the lights will stay on in their homes.
The blackouts in Egypt come unexpectedly—in the middle of the night, mid-morning or during dinner time—and they almost always last for several hours, or sometimes even days. Power outages in Egypt have occurred for years but increased in frequency in the past few months. With all the focus on Egypt's political turmoil, the Egyptian people’s socioeconomic fears have been largely ignored.