El Sisi secures third term in office with landslide election victory

The 69-year-old Egyptian leader now set to lead the country until 2030

National Election Commission chief Hazem Badawy announces the results of the Egypt's presidential election at the International Convention Centre in Cairo. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi won 89.6 per cent of the vote. Reuters
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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has been re-elected in a landslide and will remain at the helm of the country until 2030, it was announced on Monday.

The former army general, first elected in 2014, won 89.6 per cent of the vote – 39.70 million votes – the National Election Commission said.

“Dear sons of Egypt, my pride in you has no end or boundaries,” Mr El Sisi told the nation in a televised address soon after the results were announced.

“Your choice of me to lead the nation is a mandate that I shoulder before God and you.”

The three little-known politicians who challenged Mr El Sisi – Hazem Omar, Farid Zahran and Abdel Sanad Yamamah – collected a total of 4.5 million votes, or 10.4 per cent of all votes, according to figures announced by the National Election Commission.

Turnout was at an all-time high of 66.8 per cent, the commission's chairman, Hazem Badawy, told a media briefing.

There are about 67 million registered voters in Egypt, a country of 105 million people.

“It's a historic day on which we harvest our nation's democratic fruit,” the commission's executive director, Ahmed El Bendary, said during the same briefing. He added that the election had “reflected the sincerity and devotion for the nation”.

Under the constitution, Mr El Sisi's current term in office officially ends on April 2, and he is expected to take the oath of office the following day.

The re-election of the 69-year-old Egyptian leader comes at a time when the country is in the midst of a crushing economic crisis and alarmed by the Israel-Gaza war next door.

The record turnout sharply contrasts with the lacklustre label the vote had earned given the nation's preoccupation with the Israel-Hamas war, the worst economic crisis in living memory and the notion of an election whose outcome was known before voters cast their ballots.

With his win beyond doubt, Mr El Sisi's campaign was focused on getting the vote out to secure a decent turnout that could serve as a renewed mandate for the Egyptian leader to take painful decisions to overhaul the economy.

The vote was not expected to be held until early in 2024, but was brought forward because of what commentators said was the President's need for a renewed and robust mandate to tackle the economy.

Parties loyal to the President, with considerable state assistance, began mobilising voters months ago in a gritty bid to combat apathy.

The powerful state media portrayed voting as a national duty, a vote for Mr El Sisi as a contribution to Egypt's security and stability, and belittled the economic crisis as part of a global problem as well as a test of the will of Egyptians to cope with hardship.

Also helping were the tens of thousands of giant billboards, banners and flyers, all bearing the image of a smiling and confident Mr El Sisi, that flooded the streets of Cairo and other cities across the nation in the weeks ahead of the vote.

During the three days of voting, voters queued outside polling stations waving Egyptian flags, swaying to patriotic music blaring from giant speakers and carrying posters of the Egyptian leader. Polling stations were festooned with the black, red and white of the Egyptian flag.

Identical scenes defined the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018, both of which were won by Mr El Sisi with more than 95 per cent of the vote.

Instead of campaigning, Mr El Sisi kept a high profile in the media with countless meetings with foreign leaders and senior dignitaries who visited Cairo to discuss the Gaza war, which broke out on October 7.

His scathing criticism of Israel over the deaths of more than 18,700 Palestinians in the war, along with his repeated warnings against pushing the enclave's residents into Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, have bolstered his image as a supporter of the Palestinian cause.

Mr El Sisi said the December 10 to December 12 vote was held at a time when the nation was at a critical juncture in which it “faced a host of challenges on a multitude of levels, foremost of which is the [Israel-Gaza] war raging beyond our eastern border and which requires our utmost efforts to stop it because of the threat it poses to our national security.”

“Let me tell you with the customary openness between us that I am consciously aware of the magnitude of the crises we went and still going through,” he said of his nation's economic woes.

“I would like to stress my realisation that the hero in confronting all these challenges is the glorious Egyptian citizen.”

Mr El Sisi, who personally charts and oversees economic policies, did not say what he intended to do to put it back on track.

Mr El Sisi's post-electoral priority appears to be revamping the economy, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war. Critics contend that Egypt's economic crisis was chiefly caused by excessive borrowing and unnecessary large projects that cost billions of dollars.

Egypt's pound has lost more than 50 per cent of its value since March 2022 and a persistent foreign currency crunch has suppressed imports and badly hurt local industries dependent on foreign material.

The president is also expected to shift focus away from infrastructure projects to industrial ones, in a bid to curb the nation's huge import bill and to shelve yet-to-start mega projects while completing the ones that have already begun.

Mr El Sisi owes his third term in office to constitutional amendments proposed by a parliament packed by his supporters in 2018. Adopted in a referendum the following year, the changes extended presidential terms from four to six years, but kept at two the number of terms a president can serve.

However, a tailor-made clause was added to the constitution that disregarded the four years he had served between 2014 and 2018.

Updated: December 18, 2023, 4:33 PM