Egyptians in election: voters, boycotters, abstainers



Tue, 27 Mar 2018 - 07:49 GMT


Tue, 27 Mar 2018 - 07:49 GMT

Woman inking her finger after casting her vote on the second day of presidential election - Mahmoud Fakhry

Woman inking her finger after casting her vote on the second day of presidential election - Mahmoud Fakhry

CAIRO – 27 March 2018: As the election kicked off Monday to select a president to rule the country for a four-year term, there are three different kinds of Egyptians: cheering voters, boycotters and abstainers.

A hashtag calling people not to vote emerged on social media on Sunday, attracting tweets lecturing people why they should not participate in the election. Other opposing hashtags urged people to cast their vote, mostly for President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

An Arabic hashtag that translates to “Do Not Go Out” attracted tweets criticizing the current difficult economic situation in Egypt and listing reasons why people should not cast their vote, including “high prices, low salaries and lack of social insurances.”

Others were reluctant, believing that their vote would not make a difference in choosing the president, reiterating what many observers think will be an inevitable sweeping win for Sisi.

Several politicians and human rights activists have called for boycotting the election, claiming that the election between incumbent President Sisi and Ghad Party Chairman Moussa Mostafa Moussa will not be fair.

Egyptians living in Upper Egypt celebrated using the rababa, a traditional musical instrument-Press Photo

Ahead of the election, authorities tightened security measures at polling stations and vital places across Egypt. Tweets encouraging people to vote referred to the recent attack that targeted the top security chief in Alexandria this week, and stated that this would not affect their decision to participate in the election.

Lots of pictures and videos of voters dancing and singing outside different polling stations surfaced on social media on Monday; however, no official reports were released on the size of the turnout on the first day of presidential election.

Fighting apathy, but how?

Weeks ahead of the voting process, which ended abroad on March 18, Egyptians watched TV advertisements and video clips showing celebrities lecturing viewers on the presidential election. Most of the videos were explicitly supporting President Sisi.

State institutions called on Egyptians to participate in the presidential vote, with officials promising better services for citizens in governorates with high turnout rates.

Dream Park, a famous amusement part in Cairo, offered a 50 percent discount during the three-day election for anyone who shows inked fingers, indicating a cast vote.

dream park
Dream park poster offering Egyptians 50% discount on tickets' fees - Social media

With no electoral programs announced for the two candidates, Egyptians are left with little information about Moussa, a politician who joined the race at the last minute after he showed support for President Sisi, his opposing candidate.

Finding a sole poster in the streets supporting Moussa for a second term might be a challenge; however, the little-known candidate appeared optimistic of his win on several occasions, defending himself as a real competitor to Sisi.

moussa casting vote
A march of several members of the Al-Ghad Party and Moussa’s supporters headed by Moussa roamed from the campaign headquarter on Sabry Abu Alam Street throughout Abdin Street in Downtown Cairo to the polling station - Egypt Today/ Ahmed Hendy

On social media, some users spoke about their ignorance of the candidate opposing Sisi, explaining their reluctance to participate in the election. Both Sisi and Moussa deemed Egyptians’ participation in the presidential election a “national duty.”

With the fall of Islamist rule in Egypt in 2013, Sisi emerged as the nation’s savior and his popularity grew rapidly thereafter. His pictures were seen everywhere; not only on the streets, but even on cupcakes.

President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi cast his vote in the presidential election on Monday at Mostafa Youssri Abou Emeira School in Heliopolis- press photo

In October 2016, Baseera Center for Public Opinion Research revealed that Sisi’s popularity had decreased during his second year in office. Sisi himself did not deny that his popularity was affected after IMF-backed economic steps were taken, resulting in unprecedented price hikes.

Although the price inflation has been reported to have recorded lower levels compared to December 2016, an improvement in citizens’ purchasing power is still debated.

The polling stations closed their doors at 9 p.m. on Monday. Meanwhile, the National Election Authority (NEA) is bracing for increased participation during the next two days.

A run-off round, if needed, is scheduled to take place in April; otherwise, the results will be announced on April 2.



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