Egypt's election produces surprise runner-up: Mohamed Salah

Egypt's election produces surprise runner-up: Mohamed Salah
2 min read
03 April, 2018
More than one million voters wrote in the name of football star Mohamed Salah in this Egypt's presidential election.
Footballer Mohamed Salah during a Liverpool match [Getty]
The runner-up to Egypt's 26-28 March election was not Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the sole opponent to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, but Egyptian football legend Mohamed Salah. 

More than one million Egyptians reportedly struck out both Sisi and Moussa's name to cast their ballot for Mohamed Salah, a widely popular Egyptian footballer who played a decisive role in qualifying Egypt for the 2018 World Cup. 

In total 1.76 million, or 7.27 percent, of Egyptian ballots were invalid according to official figures released on Monday by the electoral commission.

The figure is nearly triple the amount that Moussa Mostafa Moussa received — the regime backer received just 656,354 votes, or 2.9 percent of the total tally.

The number of invalid votes at this year's election was a sharp increase than in past contests, where 4.07 percent of the 2014 election and 3.1 percent of 2012 runoff ballots were invalid. 

Nearly all observers consider the 2018 Egyptian presidential elections to be neither free nor fair. At least five major candidates, including Sami Anan and Ahmed Shafiq, were either sidelined or jailed in the lead up to the vote.

Moussa, a little-known politician before entering the race, had endorsed Sisi just days before registering. Most observers believe he enlisted at the regime's request to avoid a single-candidate race.

A coalition of eight Egyptian opposition parties and some 150 pro-democracy public figures had called for a boycott of the vote, calling it an "absurdity" befitting "old and crude dictatorships".

In the lead up to the 26-28 March vote, authorities toyed with various measures to increase turnout to lend the vote credibility. In the end, turnout was 41.05 percent, down from the 47.45 percent Sisi won during his first election in 2014. 

Invalidating votes are seen as safe ways to protest against President Sisi, who has overseen a sweeping crackdown on dissent since assuming office in 2014. Tens of thousands of Egyptians have been detained in recent years — mostly Islamists of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, but also secularists and activists of various stripes. 

Egyptians have in the past spoilt ballots and inserted the names of popular or even fictional figures. In the 2012 and 2014 elections, images circulated on social media showed one voter who wrote in "My vote is for you, Batman".

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