Egypt to prosecute some 54 million who boycotted Senate vote
Egypt's election commission said on Wednesday it would refer to prosecutors about 54 million people who did not vote in elections earlier this month for two-thirds of the Senate, the upper and mainly powerless chamber of the country's Parliament.
The development is unlikely to lead to actual trials as Egypt's judiciary does not have the financial means needed to prosecute such a large majority of the voters.
Some 63 million voters were eligible to cast their ballots to choose 200 of the 300 Senate seats, but only 8.99 million, or 14.23%, took part in the vote on August 11-12, according to the National Elections Authority. President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi will choose the remaining 100 seats.
The ballot was held amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the commission said it took all necessary measures so voters could cast their ballots.
Lasheen Ibrahim, the commission's chairman, had vowed to enforce a law penalising any boycotter with a fine of up to 500 Egyptian pounds. However, little attention was paid to his warning as similar ones have been issued in previous elections, apparently meant to boost turnout and with no real enforcement.
Many took to social media to criticise the decision, arguing that it's impossible to prosecute around 53 million people. Others said it only shows the government wants to collect money by any means.
Writer Gamal Taha wrote on Facebook the threat could incite public anger since the Senate has only an advisory role and no legislative powers, unlike the House of Representatives, the lower chamber.
Sisi's administration has championed the restoration of the Senate, approved as part of constitutional amendments in a referendum last year to replace the Shura Council, which was eliminated from the country's 2014 constitution. (AP)