EgyptNorth Africa

Egypt’s Authoritarian Presidential Elections

Egypt’s Authoritarian Presidential Elections, Egypt’s Authoritarian Presidential Elections
Egypt’s Authoritarian Presidential Elections, Egypt’s Authoritarian Presidential Elections
© Photo: AFP. Presidential candidate Moussa Mustafa Moussa (C-L), the head of the Ghad Party, enters the National Elections Authority in Cairo on January 29, 2018.

Egyptian election can be everything but democratic. It is not only that all those who ran as rival candidates to the incumbent president Al-Sisi have been removed from the picture, but also Sisi’s only rival candidate in upcoming elections is a fierce supporter of him. Controversial? Very much!

Sisi was elected in 2014, a year after leading the army to oust President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist. It is the third election since protests in 2011 unseated long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Mousa Mostafa Mousa are candidates for the presidency of the Republic, and the door has been closed to candidates. Indeed, the presidential candidate, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, is the founder of the “supporters” campaign to nominate Al-Sisi for a second term. A series of opposition candidates who put themselves forward for the presidency over recent months withdrew one-by-one from the race, all arrested or pressured by alleged government intimidation.

The Rival Candidate

Just when it looked like Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi would be in a one-horse race for the presidency, Mousa Mostafa Mousa submitted his nomination only hours before the deadline on last Sunday, apparently offering an alternative for voters. Mousa is so flimsy that he used an image of the incumbent as his Facebook cover photo.

Mousa Mostafa Mousa leads the Ghad party, which had endorsed Al-Sisi for a second term and even organized events to help nominate the former military commander as recently as last week.

Egypt’s Authoritarian Presidential Elections, Egypt’s Authoritarian Presidential Elections

The Ghad party, which Mousa leads, is staunchly pro-Sisi and had been gathering signatures in support of the president until January 20. In fact, he had established the “supporters of President Al-Sisi’s nomination for a second term” campaign last year, expressing hope that Al-Sisi would win by more than “80 or 90 per cent, so he can achieve what he has started.”

Mousa has insisted, however, that “we are not puppets in this race.” That seems unlikely to hold with Egyptians and international observers alike, with a coalition of opposition figures calling on Monday for a boycott of the elections.

Mousa said he would mount a full challenge to Sisi, though opposition activists, journalists, and analysts dismissed him as a dummy candidate, standing only to give the impression of a full democratic contest.

The Facebook Cover Story

Mousa is so much of a Sisi supporter that he has apparently given him pride-of-place on his social media profile. Mousa had material promoting the current president’s campaign on his Facebook profile. While the page no longer seems to be publicly accessible, he perhaps removed following his announcement.

Screenshots of a cover photo apparently from a Facebook page belonging to Mousa have been circulated widely by Egyptians, satirizing the lack of real choice in the March vote.

Text superimposed on the picture reads “we support you as president of Egypt.”

Another post, from January 23 adds “greetings Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi for the presidency of the Republic,” written over an image of Al-Sisi gazing into the distance.

Television presenter Hossam Horbagy joked in response to Al-Sisi’s rival’s cover photo that the elections “would be a fierce competition.”

The situation became such that commentators were questioning why Al-Sisi was not at least attempting to give the election a veneer of respect for democracy.

This last-minute nomination has been seen as a bid to do so, after all.

For many, however, that begs the question as to why the regime has chosen a candidate who is so publicly pro-Sisi, making his role as a regime puppet transparent.