Presidential election in Egypt

Gearing up for re-election

Earlier this week, Egypt's National Election Authority announced that the country will go to the polls on 26–28 March to elect its president. Although Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has not yet announced that he will run, his re-election seems like a foregone conclusion. And while a number of other serious candidates intended to stand, it looks as if the field is thinning. By Bachir Amroune

Egypt's leadership will do everything it can to ensure Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is re-elected. The country's state-run media is poised to begin its blanket coverage of the president. Now that the official election date is announced, the media will commence its daily reporting on the president's inauguration of factories across the country and victories won in the bitter so-called "fight against terrorism". This coverage has been set out in a plan issued by the president's press office.

The fact that the state of emergency was extended by another two months on 2 January is most welcome in this context: media censorship will persist, organisations can be banned and citizens can be spied on and restricted in their movements.

Though he hasn't yet officially announced his candidacy, Sisi's re-election as Egypt's president should be almost guaranteed. One could well expect him to achieve a result similar to his overwhelming victory four years ago, when he captured 97 per cent of the vote.

Against the backdrop of his country's catastrophic economic and security situation, however, such a straightforward re-election might not be on the cards. The Egyptian pound has plummeted in value, state energy and staple food subsidies have been drastically cut, the country's middle class is struggling with ballooning costs and a third of Egyptians live below the official poverty line.

Egypt's so-called "fight against terrorism" offers a similarly bleak picture: massive terror attacks with up to 300 causalities, the targeting of churches in the country's capital, Cairo, and the uprising of Bedouin peoples on the Sinai peninsula, which could escalate into civil war.

It hasn't helped that Egypt's leadership has sought to pacify this strategically important region solely through military means and the use of police force, which has inadvertently harmed the local civilian population and exacerbated the situation.

Khaled Ali celebrates a landmark legal victory in a Cairo courtroom in 2017 (photo: AFP/Getty Images)
Renowned human rights lawyer and presidential hopeful Khaled Ali celebrates a major victory in a Cairo courtroom in 2017. Dealing a blow to President Sisi, Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia, which had been agreed by Sisi and King Salman, was unconstitutional. The plan had sparked anger from political opponents and activists, who accused the government of selling off territory in exchange for Saudi money

Although Egypt's opposition hoped to field several serious challengers to Sisi, it is not yet clear who will end up in the running in late March.

Lawyer Khalid Ali is a serious competitor. He made headlines last January for successfully taking legal action against Sisi's controversial deal with Saudi Arabia over the islands of Tiran and Sanafir. Sovereignty over the islands, which are strategically located at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba, was transferred from Egypt to the gulf monarchy. Ali's surprising legal victory against the powerful Egyptian ruler could indicate that he enjoys the backing of influential Egyptian figures – especially as the country's judiciary isn't exactly renowned for its independence.

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