Egypt’s Sisi secures third term in widely expected election win

Published December 18, 2023
A supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reacts after presidential election results in Cairo, Egypt, December 18. — Reuters
A supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reacts after presidential election results in Cairo, Egypt, December 18. — Reuters

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has won a third term with 89.6 per cent of the vote in the Arab world’s most populous country, the national election authority said Monday.

The outcome of the December 10-12 poll was widely expected after the former army chief with a fondness for infrastructure mega-projects campaigned against a small field of relative unknowns.

It secures 69-year-old Sisi his third and, according to the Egyptian constitution, final term in office, starting in April and set to run for six years.

His victory comes despite a painful economic crisis, marked by a currency plunge and runaway household prices, and heightened regional tensions sparked by the Israel-Hamas fighting in neighbouring Gaza.

Annual inflation is running at 36.4pc, sending up prices of some food staples by the week and hurting household budgets in the country of nearly 106 million.

Even before the current economic crisis, about two-thirds of Egypt’s population lived on or below the poverty line.

A decade-long crackdown on dissent had eliminated any serious competition for Sisi, Egypt’s fifth president to emerge from within the ranks of the military since 1952.

It was the third time in a decade Sisi won a landslide victory, albeit with his smallest margin. In 2014 and 2018, Sisi won over 96pc of the vote.

Retired field marshall

The runner-up Hazem Omar, who leads the Republican People’s Party, received 4.5pc of the vote.

Next came Farid Zahran, leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, and Abdel-Sanad Yamama from the Wafd, a century-old but relatively marginal party.

The election authority said turnout was “unprecedented” at 66.8pc of 67m registered voters. This was up from 41pc in 2018 and 47pc in 2014.

In much of Cairo, however, the only sign Egypt was holding an election were the ubiquitous campaign posters for Sisi, while banners for other candidates were few and far between.

Several voters told AFP they “did not know the other candidates”, while much of the country ignored the polls entirely.

Sisi, a retired army field marshall, was first voted in as president after leading the overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

He later extended the presidential mandate from four to six years and amended the constitution to raise the limit on consecutive terms from two to three years.

His administration has overseen the imprisonment of tens of thousands of political opponents as the space for dissent has been progressively curtailed.

The all-but-decimated opposition had built momentum this year before the election before media and public attention were diverted by the Gaza crisis.

For a brief while, some expected the election to include two main opposition figures who — despite having no real hope of winning — were intended to highlight dissident voices.

Today, one is in prison and the other is awaiting trial.

Fresh devaluation

When he was first elected, the president’s popularity was dubbed “Sisimania” and adoring supporters put his image on everything from baked goods to key chains.

The enthusiasm has ebbed from those highs but Sisi is not without his supporters.

From 2016 onward, he undertook a host of economic reforms in pursuit of loans from the International Monetary Fund that have required severe austerity measures and multiple currency devaluations.

Those policies, coupled with expensive mega projects — including a $58 billion new capital city in the desert east of Cairo — have more than tripled Egypt’s debt.

Virtually all imports to Egypt are paid for in dollars, and a severe foreign currency shortage has caused a parallel market to surge and pushed up consumer prices.

Nearly a decade after Sisi first promised Egyptians security and prosperity, the economy is in freefall.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday congratulated Sisi on his “convincing victory”, according to the Kremlin.

The results are “a clear indication of the widespread recognition of your merits in addressing the pressing socio-economic and foreign policy challenges facing Egypt”, Putin said in a message to Sisi.

The election was initially expected in the spring of 2024. However, experts have said Sisi wanted to secure a third term before enacting another widely anticipated currency devaluation that is expected to fuel public discontent.

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