Egypt is Desperate for High Voter Turnout by Willie Wells @ University of Memphis
It has been four years since Egyptians elected their last president. They are returning to the polls this week (Mar 26-28), to re-elect Abdel- Fattah el-Sissi, their incumbent president, to another four-year term. This election will be flawed. The other candidates opposing el-Sissi were forced off 0f the ballot. Some have been incarcerated while others have been threatened, intimidated, or exiled to other countries. Moussa Mustafa Moussa got on the ballot one day before the expiration date. He is not a well-known politician. He did campaign. He is a supporter of el-Sissi. Moussa was asked if his candidacy was serious. He replied that he wanted to give the voters a democratic choice in the election. Some critics have accused Moussa of being a puppet for el-Sissi. Others have referred to him as a stooge for el-Sissi. Moussa has not denied that he supports el-Sissi’s re-election campaign.
Egyptians have one hundred political parties. Only two parties are represented on the ballot.
The National Election Authority (NEA), is threatening to enforce a law that allows the government to fine each eligible voter thirty dollars if they do not vote in the election. There are sixty million eligible voters on the rolls. Some eligible voters have decided not to vote in the election. Only forty seven percent voted in the twenty fourteen elections. Ninety seven percent of those who voted in the twenty fourteen election voted for el-Sissi.
Egyptians have well over thirty thousand polling places. Midway through the election on Wednesday (Mar 27), some polls were reporting only seven percent voter turnout. The polls were opened from 07:00 AM until 9: PM each day. Many voters stated that the outcome of the election has been predetermined. One voter stated that the world is laughing at Egypt because the supposedly democratic election is a joke.
Loyal supporters and pro-government officials have asked el-Sissi to change the constitution so that he can remain their president for life. Other loyal supporters have suggested that he eliminate the two-term limit in the constitution so that he can be elected for an indefinite amount of terms. The opposition parties would be highly opposed to those actions. If those suggestions are taken seriously, it would grant el-Sissi an enormous amount of political power. Those actions, if they were put in place, would be a further step toward democratic erosion. Those actions would push Egyptians closer to being a competitive Authoritarian regime. Egyptians appear to be dismantling their hard won democracy.
The election is flawed because it is an election without democracy. Joseph Schumpeter defines democracy by the minimum standard as being a political system in which the principle positions of power are filled through a competitive struggle for the people’s vote. Larry Diamond have stated that more regimes than ever before are adopting the form of electoral democracy but fail to meet the substantive test. Of the one hundred political parties in Egypt. There was only one legitimate party on the ballot. there was no competition for the people’s vote. There were a few private appearances made el-Sissi but he made no public appearances. Just prior to the election, el-Sissi put up large campaign posters of himself in the most conspicuous locations. Moussa put up only a few small posters in inconspicuous locations.
Most of the local independent media were shut down. When media outlets are not accessible to the general public, it lessens the opportunity for opposing voices to be heard. Communication and media networks are essential to strong democracies. There were internet observers who reported any negative campaign rhetoric to government officials. The perpetrators were sought out and arrested. Meanwhile, pro-government local media outlets blasted patriotic songs on loud speakers just across the street from local polling stations. They were dancing and shouting “get out and vote for el-Sissi”.
Government loyalist encouraged high voter turnout to give the world the perception that there is a strong support for democracy in Egypt. High voter turnout does not originate with a get out to vote call on a loud speaker. High voter turnout is generated by horizontal departments of government functionally properly within their various departments to keep complete autonomy out of the hands of the leader. High voter turnout is generated by highly competitive political parties competing for the people’s vote. Low voter turnout is an indication that democracy is eroding both horizontally and vertically. Low voter turnout is an indication that political parties have become week and non-competitive. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi government structure appears to have competitive authoritarian attributes.