Since 9 a.m. on Sunday and for three days, Egyptians have been called to the polls for a presidential election at the end of which the outgoing president is almost certain to be re-elected for a third term. The results are due to be announced on December 18.
As small crowds of voters lined up outside polling stations in Cairo on Sunday morning, riot police were deployed at the entrances to Tahrir Square in the center of the capital, whose occupation in 2011 crystallized the fall of the Mubarak regime.
67 million voters are called to the polls out of a population of 106 million. In recent weeks, photos of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi have been popping up everywhere, signaling to Egyptians that the election is going to take place. There has been no real election campaign in Egypt, and critics see the vote as a sham after a decade of repression of dissent in the country. Three candidates have qualified in addition to Sisi, but neither Farid Zahran (Egyptian Democratic and Social Party), Abdel-Sanad Yamama (Wafd), nor Hazem Omar (Republican People's Party) are in a position to win. The outgoing president's main rival withdrew in October due to threats against his supporters.
Re-elected with 97% of the vote in 2018, al-Sisi sidelined his rivals
As army chief, Sisi led the 2013 ouster of Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, from the Muslim Brotherhood, before being elected president the following year with 97 percent of the vote. Since then, it has silenced liberal and left-wing activists as well as Islamists. Rights groups say tens of thousands of people have been imprisoned.
Sisi and his supporters say the crackdown was necessary to stabilize Egypt and fight Islamist extremism. This image of a "bulwark" came to the fore when the civil war broke out in neighbouring Libya in 2014. The former marshal was re-elected in 2018, again with 97% of the vote.
While he holds the country with an iron fist, the president has failed to ensure its economic prosperity. Egypt is facing the most serious economic crisis in its history, debt has tripled and mega structuring projects, often attributed to the military, have so far failed to produce the promised returns. Two-thirds of the population lives below or just above the poverty line. Turnout will be an indicator: in 2018, it was 41%.