Everything you need to know about Egypt’s presidential elections

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A view shows posters of presidential candidate and current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ahead of the presidential elections to be held inside the country next week, in Cairo, Egypt, December 5, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The Egyptian presidential elections are set to occur over a three-day span starting Sunday. A decade after Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed the presidency through a coup, he is ready for a third term. Despite presiding over a deteriorating economy and facing criticism from Western allies and human rights groups for his record, the former defence minister is the frontrunner.

Incumbent President el-Sisi is running independently, going back on his 2018 promise not to seek a third term. He served as Egypt’s defence minister from 2012 to 2013 and as deputy prime minister from 2013 to 2014, resigning from the army in 2014 to run for president. In October, el-Sisi announced his candidacy for the re-election after a three-day conference titled “Story of a Homeland,” highlighting his achievements in his previous two terms.

Three candidates challenge el-Sisi in this election. Abdel-Sanad Yamama, leader of the liberal Wafd Party, focuses on improving the economy, education, and protecting the legal system from executive interference. Hazem Omar, head of the Republican People’s Party and a wealthy businessman with ties to el-Sisi, aims to leverage his experience in the government to benefit Egypt. Farid Zahran, leader of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, promises to enhance the quality of life for the citizens. Zahran, close to el-Sisi and the security services, played a role in forming el-Sisi’s cabinet after the 2013 coup.

El-Sisi is anticipated to win decisively, as in previous elections. Despite promising stability, his government has faced allegations of suppressing press freedom, imprisoning critics, and intimidating potential challengers. In May 2023, left-wing candidate Ahmed Al-Tantawy declared his candidacy but faced obstacles in collecting signatures or parliamentary endorsements. He withdrew in October, citing harassment by security forces. The government denied allegations of arrests related to Al-Tantawy’s campaign, maintaining that people were not detained for supporting him.

Cristics of the current president expressed the possibility of embarrassment for el-Sisi in the event of a low voter turnout. They noted the deployment of familiar tactics involving intimidation and bribery, such as threatening school teachers and civil workers to vote under the risk of consequences. Cash incentives are offered, and transportation is provided to mobilize large numbers of people to attend and participate in the polls.

The presidential election in Egypt, initially scheduled for April 2024, was expedited by el-Sisi. According to people closed to the president, el-Sisi seeks re-election before implementing severe austerity measures. A new electoral victory would provide legitimacy to suppress dissent arising from economic policies.

Over the last decade, el-Sisi has borrowed extensively from foreign creditors for projects like a new administrative capital, leading to a fourfold increase in Egypt’s foreign debt, requiring over $28 billion for repayments next year alone. Despite challenges, including the International Monetary Fund’s $3 billion loan programme going off track due to el-Sisi’s reluctance to sell state assets and devalue the currency further, he remains undeterred by public discontent over rising food prices.

El-Sisi declared that Egyptians should endure sacrifices for the nation’s future prosperity, stating in October that progress should not be avoided even if it comes at the cost of hunger and deprivation.

The results of the elections will be announced in the middle of December.

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