Egypt’s 2014 Presidential Elections: Why are there only two candidates?

On 20th April, the High Presidential Election Commission closed registration for the upcoming presidential elections, limiting the presidential candidates to Abdul Fattah Al Sisi, who recently resigned from his posts as head of the military and minister of defense, and former Parliament member and politician Hamdeen Sabahi. The polls are scheduled to take place on 26-27 May.

On 3rd July 2013 the Egyptian military responded to the demands of millions of Egyptians calling for the removal of President Muhammad Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and the first elected president of Egypt after Mubarak.

Post-Morsi, Egypt has had a chaotic political scene that is divided into two main camps. The first is the pro June 30th camp, which is composed of many segments: proponents of stability, remnants of the Mubarak regime, along with the security institutions which have been highly criticised since the 25th January, yet seek reconciliation with the masses.

According to the Egyptian Centre for Public Opinion Research (Baseera), 67% are “content” with the police and army dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-ins on the 14th August. This indicates how this camp perceives Al-Sisi and the military as their saviours; having rescued them from the Muslim Brotherhood. This camp prioritises domestic stability.

On the other side, the rival camp consists of Islamists opposed to the ouster of Morsi, which they call a coup. It consists of pro-Morsi activists, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamists opposed to his ouster.

It is noteworthy that the 2012 presidential race, which was the first post-revolution election in Egypt’s history, involved 23 presidential hopefuls. All of these candidates successfully submitted their papers. In the first round, there were 6 top candidates, leading to a runoff between the top two, Muhammad Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq. This election highlighted the political system in Egypt as a multi-party system.

Today, a year after this mixed scene, the upcoming presidential election is limited to only two candidates from the first round. So what happened from 2012 to 2014? Why are we not seeing the same large array of candidates? What are the factors that led to this political standoff?

Observing the chain of events in the post-Morsi era, it can be deduced that there are complex factors leading to this situation:

– Firstly, the increase of violence. For instance, there is the chaos in Sinai, regular protests at universities by Muslim Brotherhood and other students, an increase in terrorist attacks, and there is even the emergence of new terrorist organisations claiming responsibility for the attacks seen recently, namely Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis and Ajnad Misr.

– Secondly, Egypt has not had a solid organised political opposition since June 30th; the clampdown on the Muslim Brotherhood resulted in rifts in the opposition. Political parties do not have any concrete presence on the political scene. In fact, the security measures and legal reforms taken by the state affected political participation and activism; such as the protest law. This law resulted in the sentence of the co-founders of 6th April movement Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, to three years in jail and a fine of 50,000 EGP for protesting without the approval of the Interior Ministry.

Ayman Nour, politician, founder and chairman of the El Ghad party, is in exile in Lebanon. Mohamed El Baradei, the acting Vice President of Egypt from 14th July to 14th August 2013, and one of the more prominent opposition figures since January 2011, has left Egypt after his resignation, and is accused of a “betrayal of trust”. Moreover, a Cairo court has ruled to ban the 6th April movement on 28th April 2014 over espionage claims. This chain of events has caused rifts in the opposition, and hindered their ability to participate in Egyptian political life.

   – Thirdly, there is a noticeable lack of organization and coordination between the so called revolutionary forces, this factor plays a big role in responding to why Egypt lacks more than one viable alternative in these elections.

In an interview, Dr. Ahmed Abd Rabou,  Assistant Professor of Political Science at Cairo University and the American University in Cairo, asserted that “The multi-party political operation in 2014 declined compared to 2012. In 2012 there was a multiparty system; each current or party proposed its candidate. However, this time there is real frustration. The state’s repressive measures since the ouster of Morsi on his supporters are another important factor, as it led them to boycott the constitutional referendum.”

Egypt is witnessing a complex period in its history and political scene. Every day, new circumstances redirect and reshape the country’s future. Egypt’s next president, whoever he may be, has a large array of challenges to meet.

This article was originally published in the Middle East Media Center for Studies website on May 4th, 2013. It is written by Nada Salah. 



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