Egypt has elected a new president, giving the Egyptian army official control of the government to add to its hold on internal security, media, and the economy.
Former general Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi received 92 percent of the vote. That was out of a total of 23 million votes, well up from winner Mohammed Morsi’s 12 million in 2012. Voter turnout, however, was 46 percent, compared to 52 percent in the 2012 election, and el-Sissi had been hoping to prove his legimitacy to the world with a well-attended election. To make matters worse, most of these votes came on days two and three of the election, after the state began shaming, bribing, and otherwise coercing people into voting. According to the AP:
The victory was tainted by the extraordinary means used by the military-backed government to get even that many voters to the polls. After signs that the turnout on the first of two scheduled days of voting on Monday was a lowly 15 percent, the government declared the next day a national holiday to free people to go to polls. The election commission threatened to slap fines of $70 – a hefty sum for most Egyptians – on those who did not vote.
When Tuesday polling still seemed low, the commission abruptly extended the election to a third day. The state made bus and train travel free to allow migrants to return to home districts to vote. Throughout the day, TV networks berated Egyptians as “ungrateful” and “traitors” for not voting.
The AP explained the turn-out in part by the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best “get out the vote” organization, did not participate in this election, possibly because the Brotherhood was sitting out in protest of Morsi’s ouster, or perhaps because all the organization’s leaders have been arrested.
Another possibility is that ordinary Egyptian voters, who have been nothing if not unpredictable in the last three years, decided they did not want to rubber stamp el-Sissi’s presidency.
No forces within the government remain to oppose the army. The Egyptian parliament’s lower house was dissolved in 2012, and the Islamist-led upper house was declared illegal by the courts in June 2013. It was eliminated from the constitution later that year, and parliamentary elections for the lower house are set to proceed the presidential election.
The Egyptian media has been onboard for the last year. After the Muslim Brotherhood began violently protesting outside of Egyptian TV news offices, many news directors opted to refer to the group as “terrorists,” and public opinion soon followed.
The army has owned huge shares of the economy since the 1960s. Estimates of the military’s total economic share range from 5 to 40 percent, but its holdings are so diverse that almost no manufacturing occurs without passing through the army at some point. Holdings include the manufacture of cars, pasta, raising chickens, and even childcare.
“The question isn’t what sectors do they invest in, but rather: is there a sector that they don’t invest in?” Robert Springborg, an expert on Egypt’s armed forces and a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, told al Jazeera.
This lack of opposition from any quarter (the religious establishment has been under de facto government control for decades) gave el-Sissi overwhelming support from everyone in this election—except, perhaps, Egyptian voters.