Egypt election: Polls close with al-Sisi poised to win second term

  • Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi secured almost 92 percent of the 25 million votes counted so far, according to state-run daily newspaper al-Ahram.
  • Critics have said the vote appeared reminiscent of the same kind of elections that kept autocrats in power for decades before the Arab Spring of 2011.
  • Under nearly every dictator, everyday life for Egyptian citizens has deteriorated since 2011. The cost of day-to-day living has increased, inflation has significantly reduced the value of salaries, liberties have been curtailed and an uptick in terrorist activity has caused greater insecurity.
An Egyptian youth walks past a polling station in the capital Cairo's western Giza district on March 25, 2018 ahead of the vote scheduled to begin the following day, decorated on the outside with giant privately-sponsored electoral posters depicting incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and giant pieces of cloth stacked together to show the colors of the Egyptian flag.
MOHAMED EL-SHAHED | AFP | Getty Images
An Egyptian youth walks past a polling station in the capital Cairo's western Giza district on March 25, 2018 ahead of the vote scheduled to begin the following day, decorated on the outside with giant privately-sponsored electoral posters depicting incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and giant pieces of cloth stacked together to show the colors of the Egyptian flag.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi appears set to win power for a second term Thursday, as polls closed after a three-day election.

The presidential contest, which concluded on Wednesday, had al-Sisi running against just one challenger after several credible political rivals quit the race at the start of the year. Critics have said the vote appeared reminiscent of the same kind of elections that kept autocrats in power for decades before the Arab Spring of 2011.

The incumbent secured almost 92 percent of the 25 million votes counted so far, according to state-run daily newspaper al-Ahram.

Voter turnout

In becoming Egypt's first democratically-elected president in 2013, al-Sisi won 97 percent of the vote — but with a modest turnout of less than 50 percent.

This time around, the former U.S.-allied military commander was thought to be desperate to ensure a higher attendance at the polls in order to press ahead with his plans to combat militants and push through stringent economic reforms.

However, after three days of voting, the overall turnout was projected to be less than 40 percent, Reuters reported, citing two unnamed sources. CNBC has not been able to independently verify these sources.

Who's the sole challenger?

At the start of the year, all of al-Sisi's credible political opponents withdrew from the race citing a targeted strategy of intimidation by authorities. Egypt's president has denied any wrongdoing.

As a result of the flurry of withdrawals at the start of the year, al-Sisi's only remaining challenger was Moussa Mustafa Moussa. The little-known lawmaker had consistently endorsed al-Sisi until a last-minute decision to enter the race. Moussa reportedly even helped organize events in order to ensure the incumbent could stand for a second term.

Detractors have accused Moussa of being a stooge candidate, though he has insisted his campaign to become Egypt's leader is genuine.

Why does this matter?

Under nearly every dictator, everyday life for Egyptian citizens has deteriorated since 2011. The cost of day-to-day living has increased, inflation has significantly reduced the value of salaries, liberties have been curtailed and an uptick in terrorist activity has caused greater insecurity.

Human rights groups say al-Sisi has overseen an unprecedented crackdown on dissent which has resulted in the detention of tens of thousands of people.

A skyline view of Cairo, Egypt
Mohamed El-Shahed | Getty Images
A skyline view of Cairo, Egypt

Meanwhile, Egypt has been hit with several attacks in recent months, with armed groups regularly targeting security forces and carrying out deadly church bombings.

In November, an assault on a mosque killed more than 300 people — thought to be the worst attack in Egypt's modern history.