Expert: Sisi could face protests after election 'facade'

Sisi ran virtually unchallenged after various credible candidates were arrested or bowed out under pressure.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Egypt’s presidential election has dealt a blow to President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi who won by a landslide, as expected, but was dogged by low voter turnout, according to preliminary results published on Thursday.
According to Mira Tzoreff, an Egypt specialist at Tel Aviv University’s Dayan Center, the low turnout “is a way for the public to tell Sisi ‘we understand this is not a real election.’”

The real question now, she said, is whether there will be demonstrations after the public digests what has gone on during this elections process. “If the Egyptian people after this façade of elections hasn’t had enough of this, he may get another chance. He may get an extension because it’s a people that is very tolerant of its leaders. But during the extension he will be viewed with very fine glasses and won’t get another one. Now he will have to produce quite immediate results.”

The state-owned Akhbar al-Youm reported that Sisi had received 21.5 million votes compared with the 721,000 votes received by his only challenger, Mousssa Mostafa Moussa, who is a Sisi supporter.

Sisi ran virtually unchallenged after various credible candidates were arrested or bowed out under pressure, making turnout the indicator of success or failure for the president. 

But with some 60 million eligible voters in Egypt, turnout was only 40%, according to state-owned Al-Ahram, falling well short of the 47.5% figure in the 2014 election despite a massive government effort to turn out the vote. Reuters reported from Cairo that voters said the regime gave payments and inducements to people to cast their ballots. Final results are expected 
on Monday.
Tzoreff said the average Egyptian still hasn’t felt an economic improvement and that unemployment is still daunting, especially for youth. Security and tourism haven’t rebounded adequately, she said. In Sinai, the insurgency is still raging.

“He may get an extension but it will be short,” she said.

Tzoreff said that Sisi had done “incalculable damage” to himself in his handling of the elections, including by arresting his main challengers, Gen. (ret.) Sami Anan and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq. She said that in retrospect the revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s autocratic leader from 1981 to 2011, started with his quashing of opposition during the November 2010 elections. “Sisi should have learned the lessons but he didn’t,” she said.

“Sisi knows well his time is limited, that he has to prove himself, that he has to work hard for the public especially after what he did,” she said. “Therefore, now is a great test for the two sides, for the ruler and also the public in terms of its degree of tolerance.”

Meanwhile, a British panel that included members of Parliament, one of whom is a physician, and lawyers issued a report saying that former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted by Sisi in a coup in 2013, is in danger of “premature death” due to the conditions of his incarceration and inadequate medical care.

The panel, headed by Crispin Blunt, an MP who is former chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons, conducted its probe at the request of the Morsi family. The panel asked Egypt’s ambassador to the UK for permission to visit Morsi, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader being held in solitary confinement in Tora Prison, but received no response.

MP Paul Williams, a physician who served on the panel, wrote: “I find that Mohamed Morsi is receiving inadequate medical care, particularly inadequate management of his diabetes (there is evidence of hypoglycemia and no evidence that his diabetes is adequately controlled) and inadequate management of his liver disease (there is evidence he is denied a low salt diet, and no evidence that he is receiving adequate monitoring of his liver function). The consequence of this inadequate care is likely to be rapid deterioration of his long-term conditions, which is likely to lead to premature death.”

The panel found that the detention of Morsi, 67, “is below the standard expected by the international standards for prisoners and would constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. We also find that the detention could meet the threshold for torture in accordance with Egyptian and international law.”

Egypt’s embassy in Tel Aviv did not respond to a request for comment on the report. But according to the Egypt Independent’s website, a member of the Egyptian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Tarek el-Kholy, told media early this month that the request to visit Morsi represents an “unacceptable interference in Egypt’s internal affairs” and accused Blunt of having a long history of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.