Egypt’s presidential elections kick off amid public discontent
Egypt’s presidential elections kicked off on Sunday, 10 December at 9 AM local time (7 GMT) at 9376 polling stations nationwide.
The elections are taking place amid public discontent triggered by decade-long socioeconomic decline.
They are, however, not expected to be free or fair and are most likely to be won by incumbent president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew his predecessor in a military coup and has been in power since 2014.
Other than Sisi, Farid Zahran, head of the opposition Social Democratic Party, Abdel-Sanad Yamama, the leader of the country's oldest liberal party Al-Wafd, and Hazem Omar, head of the People's Republican Party are taking part in the elections.
Some 65 million citizens are eligible to vote inside and outside Egypt. The elections were initially expected in 2024 but brought forward a few months earlier.
Last week, Egyptian expatriates cast their votes at 137 Egyptian embassies and consulates in 121 countries worldwide. The voter turnout abroad has not been officially declared yet.
The vote, which will conclude on Tuesday at 9 PM, is technically under the supervision of the Egyptian judiciary, while the National Elections Authority (NEA), the official entity monitoring the electoral process, has permitted 24 embassies, 67 diplomats, 220 international observers, 22,340 local ones, and 68 local organisations to observe the process.
NEA has also granted access to 4,218 media personnel from different outlets locally and abroad to cover the vote.
NEA executive director Ahmed Bendari told reporters in Cairo during an early morning press conference held on Sunday that “the voting process has been going smoothly at all polling stations and subcommittees around Egypt, witnessing a high voter turnout.”
The final result of the three-day election will be released on 18 December in case no run-off is required.
The results however are a foregone conclusion for most Egyptians after previous elections held from 2014 onwards gave improbable majorities to Sisi. They were marked by the detention of rival candidates.
The three candidates running against Sisi have little support among the Egyptian public, however.
Two presidential hopefuls had earlier withdrawn from the contest, ostensibly for not meeting the required conditions: Ahmed Tantawi, a former MP and journalist, and Gameela Ismail, the head of the Al-Dostour party and a former TV presenter.
Tantawi was referred to a criminal trial last month for allegedly circulating unauthorised printed endorsement forms for the elections, among other charges. His electoral campaign manager and 21 other campaigners were also detained earlier.
This year's election came amid severe socio-economic instability and a continued crackdown on human rights and freedom of expression. It is also taking place amid Israel's indiscriminate war on Gaza, which borders Egypt’s once-restive North Sinai province and a civil war in neighbouring Sudan.
Sisi came to power after leading a coup in 2013, as defence minister, against Egypt's first and only democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi died in a courtroom in 2019 after years of medical neglect in prison.