The media predictions were unanimous – Egypt’s presidential election would be a walkover. Ever since the overthrow of the previous administration together with its president, Mohamed Morsi, back in July 2013, a cult of personality had been assiduously fostered within Egypt around the man who had led the uprising – Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The campaign had been notably successful. His face appeared frequently on state-run TV and newspapers, on billboards and posters, even on chocolates, underpants and keyrings, and his popularity ratings soared. A runaway triumph in the presidential election set for Monday and Tuesday, May 26 and 27, was confidently assumed by the military régime, a prediction boosted by the fact that he secured 95 percent of votes cast in advance by Egyptians overseas.
Then, as so often happens in elections run cleanly and in accordance with democratic principles (monitors from the European Union and US-funded Democracy International were observing the vote), the electorate failed to act as expected. Sisi had called for record voter participation – a turnout of 40 million, or 80 percent of the electorate – but Reuters reported that as voting began, lines outside polling stations in various parts of Cairo were short.