CAIRO, Nov 22 – Egyptians vote on Sunday in the second phase of parliamentary elections which have so far attracted just a quarter of the electorate in a process critics say has been undermined by widespread repression.
The elections, which will restore parliamentary life to Egypt after a more than three-year hiatus, have been hailed by President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi as a milestone on the army’s road to democracy.
But in the first round, held in October, Egyptians turned out in low numbers with Sisi loyalists winning a landslide.
Many who abstained said they felt the polls offered little genuine choice in the absence of the main opposition Muslim Brotherhood and other critics, or that parliament would change little in lives dominated by the struggle to earn a living.
Egypt’s last parliament was elected in 2011-12, in the first election after the popular uprising that ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Voting then was marked by long queues and youthful excitement. The Muslim Brotherhood won about half the seats.
A court dissolved that parliament in mid-2012. A year later, Sisi, then military chief, removed President Mohamed Mursi of the Brotherhood from power after mass protests against his rule.
Egypt’s oldest Islamist organization was banned, declared a terrorist organization and thousands of its members were jailed.
When it ousted Sisi, the army won the backing of other political groups by promising prompt parliamentary elections. Instead, Sisi went on to win a presidential vote in 2014. Parliament polls will finally be completed this month.
The new parliament will contain 568 elected members – 448 elected on an individual basis and 120 through winner-takes-all lists. Sisi may appoint up to a further 28 lawmakers.
“For the Love of Egypt”, a loyalist electoral alliance led by former intelligence officer Sameh Seif Elyazal, won all 60 list-based seats contested in the first round and is expected to secure the remaining 60 on Sunday and Monday.
In the absence of the Brotherhood, critics say the ballot offers many names but little genuine choice.
A list of socialist and liberal parties which would have presented the main opposition choice eventually withdrew, leaving the field dominated by Sisi supporters, Mubarak-era figures, provincial notables and businessmen.
These figures performed well in round one.
The lack of interest in voting reflects disillusionment with politics but also voter fatigue after a turbulent few years.
Egyptians have participated in two presidential elections, two parliamentary elections and three constitutional referendums since the 2011 uprising. Polls often drag out over several weeks with different rounds and run-offs draining them of momentum.