In 2014, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi won 97 percent of the vote with a turnout of 47.5 percent of 53 million eligible voters. Voting was extended by a day to boost the numbers getting behind the former military chief.
This time, the round of elections is clearly not about whether El-Sisi can win another term — the only other candidate, Musa Mustafa Musa, is widely considered to be standing in name only.
But El-Sisi’s backers want to show that the legitimacy and popularity of the incumbent has not been tarnished by tough austerity measures and security problems, and therefore want to ensure that enough Egyptians go to the polls to express their support for him.
During the 2011 uprising, which brought down Hosni Mubarak and gave hope for a new democratic beginning, Egyptians demanded “bread, freedom and social justice.”
Amid severe political and economic turbulence in past years, hope has changed toward security and a better economy, while some young Egyptians continue muted calls for more freedom.
For those planning to vote, the outcome of the election is not about who will win, but whether El-Sisi will be able to improve their lives. Ahead of the election, people have spoken about their demands and expectations.
“I just want the economic situation to be improved and the return of tourism. Thank God 2017 is over. It has been a tough year for everyone,” said Mahmoud Sayed, a Cairo resident.
Tourism, one of Egypt’s most important sources of income and provider of jobs, plummeted after the Arab Spring and subsequent militant attacks.
Souad Kamel, another resident, said employment was also one of her main concerns.
“My hope is to see a reduction in prices, lower rates of unemployment among young people and the opening of new projects that provide new jobs.”
Last week, an interview with El-Sisi was aired on Egyptian television, during which a segment was played of Egyptians complaining about the cost of living — partly down to austerity measures linked to an IMF loan deal.
One old man said simply: “I just want food.”
In his response to the film, El-Sisi said: “When you gave birth to five children were you thinking of food only or should you think about education and other important aspects.”
Al-Hajj Samir Hajjaj told Arab News that his main concern was health care. “The government is doing its best except for the minister of health, I didn’t feel any effort during 2017 on health and this is what we should focus on.”
With the Egyptian military waging an offensive in Sinai against Daesh-linked militants who have attacked churches, the security forces and the tourism sector, many are desperate for the return of security.
“El-Sisi or anyone else, I don’t care much. I just want security in Egypt,” Shady Mohamed said on Twitter.
For Mohammed Amir, a 23-year-old limousine driver, the main improvement he wants harks back to the key issues that drove the Arab Spring. Amir said he was ranked 4th in his university for his degree in agriculture engineering, but could not find a job relating to his subject.
“I just want it to keep on moving now, I spent four months searching for a job in my field and I failed. I need a decent job,” he said.