Ballot papers of constitutional referendum 2012 (AFP)
CAIRO - 15 March 2018: Calls for boycotts have always existed in each election or referendum over the past six years following the January 25 revolution. Although calls for boycott by political figures have reportedly reached the peak in 2018, yet, the election participation rates have proven that boycott calls are not always effective.
2018 Presidential Election
State institutions have frequently called on people to participate in the 2018 Presidential election set to begin locally on March 26. The Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs has urged people to vote, as part of religious demand and national duty.
However, several politicians and Human rights activists have called for boycotting the election, claiming that the vote between current President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and head of al-Ghad party, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, will not be fair.
Dozens of political figures have been sued by two Egyptian lawyers, Samir Sabry and Tarek Mahmoud, after their calls to boycott the 2018 presidential election.
The case was against 2012 presidential candidates Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh and Hamdeen Sabahi; the nephew of assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Esmat al-Sadat, Mohamed Anwar Sadat; the current leader of the Constitution Party of Egypt, Khaled Dawoud; a member of the Coalition for Revolutionary Youth, Hazem Hosny; NASA space scientist and former advisor to interim president Adli Mansour, Essam Heggi; political science professor, Farid Zahran; former chairman of the Central Auditing Authority, Hisham Geneina; and prominent opposition figures including Medhat al-Zahid, Ahmed el-Borai, Amr Helmy, George Ishaq, Ahmed Darrag, Shady el-Ghazaly Harb and Abdel Galil Mostafa.
In his complaint, Sabry stated that those names have committed the crime of disrupting the constitution, so they should receive a penalty of imprisonment for five years, especially as the elections were mentioned in the constitution, and therefore the boycott of the election comes as a call to disrupt the constitutional provisions.
Although Moussa Mostafa Moussa, chairperson of El-Ghad party, announced running for the presidency in late January, Hamdeen Sabahi called, on Tuesday, for boycotting the 2018 election, because it is “an election without candidates or guarantees.”
Aboul Fotouh appeared in an interview in Al-Jazeera channel from London, where he said that the upcoming election is not a real one. “Election should provide competition, and candidates should have equal chances to win. Candidates cannot be threatened. Since candidates have been arrested or pressured to withdraw, and no candidate in fact is running for president now except Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who already ended his term as a president, then it’s not election,” Aboul Fotouh claimed.
Leader of the Strong Egypt Party, Aboul Fotouh was then arrested on February 14 over six charges, including “inciting against the state and the constitution, and destabilizing Egypt’s stability and security aiming to topple the current regime.” In addition, he was put on the terrorism list.
From left, Sabahi, Aboul Fotouh, and lawyer Khaled Ali – Photo courtesy of Aboul Fotouh’s Facebook page
2015 Parliamentary election
The Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Freedom and Justice party, the Strong Egypt Party headed by Aboul Fotouh, the Center party (Al-Wasat) and the Constitution party (Al-Dostor) that was founded by political figures including Nobel prize winner and opposition figure Mohamed el-Baradei, announced boycotting the 2015 Parliamentary election.
On October 9, 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Robert Springborg, where he claimed that Egypt’s parliamentary election set to begin in October is “more political circus than a step on the path to democracy.”
Following the first phase of the election in October, which covered 14 cities, including Giza and Alexandria, the Higher Electoral Commission (HEC) announced in a press conference that more than 7 million voters participated, representing about 27 percent of the total number of electorate.
The second phase covered 13 cities including Cairo, South and North Sinai, and took place in November. The HEC announced that about 8.4 million citizens voted in the election, representing about 29.8 percent of the total number of electorate.
2014 Presidential Election
After the ousting of MB-affiliated President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013, President Sisi resigned from the Egyptian Military to run for president. The Muslim Brotherhood defamed Sisi and used various forms of propaganda against him, including grafiti.
However, MB members could not agree to vote for Sabahi, who ran solely against Sisi in the 2014 election, as Sabahi was one of the main opposition leaders during Morsi’s era. In addition, Sabahi belonged to the National Front, which was formed in November, 2012. The National Front opposed Morsi’s decrees and called for protesting against the latter in June 30, 2013.
FILE - Sabahi embraces former general guide of the banned Muslim Brotherhood Mahdi Akef
As it was expected by the public, Sabahi got a relatively very small number of votes in the election, Judge Anwar al-Asi, head of the presidential election committee, announced in a press conference in June, 2014. He added that spoilt votes in the 2014 election exceeded the votes for Sabahi, with 1,040,608 ballots, state-owned Al-Ahram reported.
Asi said that Sisi won 96.9 percent of votes, with a turnout of 47.45 percent.
2014 Constitutional referendum
Following the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Army chief General at the time announced in a statement, suspending the Muslim Brotherhood 2012 constitution, and he called for early election.
A committee of 10 legal experts was formed in the aim of amending the 2012 constitution. The committee managed to accomplish its mission in August, 2013.
Former acting president Adly Mansour formed a committee of 50 people and their names were announced in September. The 50 members represented different institutions including Al-Azhar and the church. One of the main amendments was inhibiting the presence of parties formed on the basis of religion. In December 2013, the committee introduced the final draft of the constitution for referendum.
Al-Jamaa al-Islamiya (Islamic group) that was designated by the U.S. as a global terrorist organization and who was reportedly responsible for assassinating former President Anwar al-Sadat, announced boycotting the referendum. In a statement, the group said it would launch public campaigns to call for boycotting the “coup constitution.”
Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs announced in December 2013 banning famous Salafist sheikhs Abu Ishaq al-Huwaini, Mohamed Hassan, Mohamed Hussein Yacoub from mounting mosque pulpits and delivering sermons, after they announced boycotting election.
Nabil Salib, head of the Supreme Election Committee said that 20.5 million out of 53 million electorate participated in the vote.
2012 Constitutional Referendum
After Morsi came to power, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that the Egyptian Constituent Assembly would vote on the new constitution in late 2012. The constitution was seen to be biased to the MB group, as Islamist members of the Assembly reportedly represented 76 percent. In addition legal experts thought it was full of holes.
However, a more balanced Assembly was then formed, including police and army men, in addition to people of the church. On November 16, a few days before the vote, Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical churches in Egypt announced their withdrawal from the Assembly, as it did not support religious pluralism, according to a unified statement from the churches.
Civil movements’ leaders including former secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa; Gaber Nassar, former head of Cairo University, Anwar Esmat Al-Sadat, former president Al-Sadat’s nephew in addition to human activists, church representatives and more than twenty members of the Assembly, withdrew from the assembly.
However, Morsi insisted on not postponing the voting process and Muslim Brotherhood amassed more than 10.6 million votes in favor of the constitution, while more than 6 million votes opposed it. At last, about 32.8 percent participated in the vote.
2012 Presidential Election
Due to mass demonstrations starting January 25, Hosni Mubarak, the president at the time, was forced to leave office on February 11.
Before the 2012 election took place in May, calls for boycotts mostly did not exist. However, some revolutionary movements and activists called on people not to vote for Amr Moussa, or former minister of civil aviation Ahmed Shafik, as they were part of Mubarak’s regime.
A design calling on electorate not to vote for Moussa, Shafik
More than 23 million valid votes were counted following the voting process, representing about 46.48 percent of the total number of electorate. Even some celebrities could be spotted while voting.
Before the second round between Morsi and Shafik, a considerable number of people thought that none of the candidates should come to power because they “do not represent the Egyptian rebels.” Many people on social media had announced they would boycott the vote, using hashtags such as “boycotters”. However, the turnout was about 52 percent.