Reuters/Ammar Awad

Egypt’s president al-Sisi looks set to retain his membership of the “90%-plus” club

By Yomi Kazeem

Another big election win could be on the cards in Egypt where polls opened on Monday. In theory, Egyptians are choosing between electing a new president or keep one in place. But, the reality is president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is expecting a home run as he seeks re-election without major opposition. The absence of opponents is not for lack of effort on the part of opposition parties however.

Sisi’s major challengers, including former military chief of staff Sami Anan and former prime minister Ahmed Shafik have dropped out of the race after confrontations with the military. Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer and opposing candidate to Sisi, also dropped out claiming the elections would not be fair.

Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the sole challenger to president Sisi registered to contest only at the last minute and is seen as a “dummy candidate” in place to avoid a one-horse race. Moussa is a self-proclaimed supporter of the president.

All of this means a victory for Sisi is all but secure the big question is how high will the win margin be?

In 2014, when Sisi first contested, he pulled off a 96.9% win. It’s not far off from other similar election win margins across Africa where strongmen leaders have vested so much power in themselves and are somewhat guaranteed of staying in office. For example, there’s Eritrea where presidential elections have not been held since the country’s independence in 1993.

Some recent 90%-plus presidents

Name Country Vote share Year
Paul Kagame Rwanda 98% 2017
Teodoro Obiang Equatorial Guinea 93.70% 2016
Omar al-Bashir Sudan 94% 2015
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Egypt 96.90% 2014
Abdelaziz Bouteflika Algeria 90.20% 2009

To pull off such large wins, most of these leaders have typically followed the same playbook. Political opposition is muzzled and barely tolerated while free press is stifled. With elections being mere formalities, voter turnout is usually the only measure of the support that strongmen leaders have. Wise to that fact in Cairo, government and public sector employees have been instructed to vote.

2017 World Press Freedom Index ranking
Algeria 134
Rwanda 159
Egypt 161
Equatorial Guinea 171
Sudan 174
Eritrea 179

Whatever the case, Egypt’s election results will be announced on April 1. But there’s only one thing left to be seen: if Sisi can match or surpass Paul Kagame who won re-election in Rwanda with more than 98% of the vote last August.