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Second term for Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi

Abdel Fatah al-Sisi was re-elected (March 29, 2018) for a second term. The election campaign was shrouded in controversy from the beginning five of his potential challengers were prevented from getting on the ballot. On 19 January, incumbent President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi had formally announced he would run for a second and final term. Presidential elections were held in Egypt between 26 and 28 March 2018. Egyptians abroad voted from 16 to 18 March 2018. However, many human rights groups dismissed the poll as “farcical”. They said the authorities had “trampled over even the minimum requirements for free and fair elections”, stifling basic freedoms and eliminating key challengers. Egyptian president Preliminary results showed that Sisi won about 92% of the vote, with turnout at around 41.5%. Twenty-five million of the 60 million registered voters turned out during the three days of polling. Reportedly Sisi won 21.4 million votes.

Sisi’s sole challenger was Mousa Mostafa Mousa, who previously declared that he “was not here to challenge the president” and who entered the race at the last minute after five other potential challengers were blocked from getting on the ballot. Mousa conceded his loss and accepted popularity of Sisi. Other, more heavyweight would-be challengers were all sidelined, detained or pulled out. Opposition groups had called for a boycott of this week’s vote, which they labelled a facade. There were no presidential debates and Sisi himself did not appear at any official campaign events, although he spoke at a number of ceremonies.

Boycotters who cannot show good reason for not going to the polls could a face a fine of up to 500 Egyptian pounds (£20), the electoral commission has warned. The election commission of Egypt official Mahmud al-Sherif claimed that there had been no violations of Egypt’s election law. Sisi denied any role in sidelining the opposition.

The president of Egypt is elected using the two-round system. If no run-off is needed, the first round elects the president. If a run-off is needed, the final result is announced after run-off in the second round. But Sisi has own in the first round itself. Although the March election campaign was marked by arrests, intimidation, and fear, Sisi just secured another four years in office. Analysts pointed out that Sisi beat the only other candidate, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, who was publicly known to be a strong supporter of the president.

After the results were announced, US President Donald Trump called Sisi to congratulate him on winning Egypt’s presidential election. According to a White House statement, “The two leaders affirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and noted that they look forward to advancing this partnership and addressing common challenges.” In the past, the US president had repeatedly expressed admiration for Sisi, whom he has called a “fantastic guy” Who had done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation.”

The US president’s embrace of Sisi reflects his belief that Egypt is vital to the security of Israel and other US allies throughout the Middle East. Sisi has fostered a strong, if quiet, working relationship with the Israeli government — since 2015, he’s even secretly allowed Israeli drones to operate in Egyptian territory — and warned Iran to “stop meddling” in the region. Above all, the US and Israel are gambling on Sisi to control the Arab world’s most populous nation after years of political uncertainty.

Background

As army chief, Sisi ousted Egypt’s first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Morsi, after mass street protests in 2013, then went on to win his first term in 2014 with 96.9% of the vote.Turnout of 47% in that year’s election was higher than this year’s 40% despite appeals from Sherif Ismail, the prime minister, for voters to fulfil their patriotic duty. Morsi’s removal had ushered in a deadly crackdown that killed and jailed hundreds of Islamists. The initial attack on Morsi’s supporters expanded to include liberal and leftist secular activists.

During his past four years in power, Sisi has cracked down on civil liberties and brought the country’s political system squarely under his grip.

He’s not the first military leader to run Egypt. Most of the country’s former presidents, including Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak, came from the military. The heads of Egypt’s armed forces, which has around 1.2 million active personnel, also control a large percentage of the country’s economy, though the military budget is secret and their industries are not taxed or audited. Sisi has downplayed the military’s economic control, but experts estimate that it could be anywhere from 5 to 40 percent.

Sisi first appeared on the Egyptian political stage as the youngest member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a military junta that temporarily ruled Egypt after public protests forced former President Hosni Mubarak to step down in 2011. When Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected president in 2012, he chose Sisi to be his minister of defense. Morsi granted himself sweeping powers while trying to push through a new constitution and implemented Islamist policies, infuriating much of the Egyptian public.

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