Abdel Fatah El-Sisi has won the Egyptian presidential elections and will become the next head of state.
El-Sisi, the senior general in the Egyptian armed forces and former Defence Secretary, won over 90% of the vote in an election involved mass intimidation by police and crack-downs on opposition activists and protesters. The election was the first to take place since the military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood government in July 2013.
Abdel Fatah El-Sisi was the leading commander of the Egyptian army when it deposed former president Mohamed Morsi. Much of the military and state establishment has come to rally around him as its champion. The military council backed him as presidential candidate, and numerous bourgeois political parties declined to stand their own candidates, giving support to El-Sisi.
Democrats and leftists fear his victory cements and secures the full return to power of the old state-military bureaucracy of the Mubarak regime, the regime which the initial revolution of 2011 had hoped to overthrow.
El-Sisi’s huge 90% majority was achieved on a turnout of just 46%. Yet the turn out was an improvement on the number who took part in the 2012 elections. El-Sisi’s support has some popular roots with some Egyptians hoping for stability and prosperity after three years of near-constant political turmoil.
Some liberal forces in the Tamarrod movement which organised against Mohamed Morsi have backed El-Sisi in recognition of the military's role in removing the hated Muslim Brotherhood.
But in no way does El-Sisi have a truly democratic mandate. The state media, as well as most of the corporate news outlets, flooded the country with propaganda for El-Sisi. The army, an enormously powerful force in Egyptian life, backed El-Sisi’s campaign. In a bid to make the electoral turnout more respectable, the polls were opened for an extra day, and a national day off from work was declared to up the numbers voting.
Meanwhile, the opposition faces severe repression. Thousands of political prisoners are jailed in Egypt, many of them Islamist supporters of the Brotherhood, and also hundreds of left-wingers, secularists, democrats and even critical journalists who have fallen foul of the regime. They include Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy, who was arrested last August while covering protests and has been on hunger strike for more than 130 days.
A grim cycle has been established whereby those who protest against the imprisonment of activists are themselves arrested and imprisoned. Given these authoritarian conditions, it is unsurprising that many political parties, decided against risking a candidate against El-Sisi.
Activists for the only other party contesting the poll, the Nasserist Popular Current, were met with police harassment. A number of them were arrested when making complaints regarding electoral fraud.
When the army toppled Morsi a year ago, some in the left and labour movement welcomed the move. It is now bitterly clear that military rule represents counter-revolution. Independent working-class politics is necessary.