Life is hard in Sisi’s Egypt, but voters have little choice

A 50-foot campaign poster of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stares down over Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians demanded bread, freedom and social justice during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. Across from the square, a huge screen shows a video montage of the President and his supporters.

In Cairo, it’s impossible to miss that Egypt is having a presidential election from Monday. Sisi’s face is plastered on nearly every street along with slogans such as, “Yes, to building the future,” and “You are the hope.”
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What is difficult to find are the more subdued posters of Sisi’s little-known and only remaining rival, Mousa Mostafa Mousa.
The lack of serious competition has drawn the fierce condemnation of critics who say Sisi has stifled dissent, but the President says he is not to blame.
“It is not my fault. I swear to God, I wished there would have been more candidates for people to choose who they want. But they were not ready yet, there is no shame in this,” Sisi said in a recent TV interview.
“We have more than 100 parties. Have they fielded many (candidates), or any?”
In fact, multiple candidates tried to enter the race, but all but one has since exited. The opposition blames Sisi’s government for squeezing potential rivals through what they see as a strategy of intimidation.
Egyptian authorities arrested former army Gen. Sami Anan in January, saying his candidacy broke military rules.
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik announced his candidacy in self-imposed exile from the United Arab Emirates but withdrew upon his return to Cairo and human rights lawyer Khaled Ali said he withdrew his name after coming under pressure and facing obstacles getting on the ballot.
Mohamed Anwar Sadat, the nephew of late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, pulled out after facing what he called obstruction and fear for the safety of his campaign workers.
“I was scared that all my campaign representatives might be in a situation where they face a difficult time or are stopped, detained, and abused,”. Hossam ElShazly, the Secretary-General of the Egyptian Change Council, an advocate of the liberal democratic vision, and the Political and Economic Advisor withdrew on 28 January 2018 after the arrest of another candidate; Sami Anan, and as a direct result of the suppressive environment generated by the military ruling regime in Egypt. ElShazly supporters faced difficulties in registering pledges for him as Sisi has exerted pressure on former presidential candidates so that they would not run against him.
In February, Human Rights Watch expressed concern that the Egyptian government had compromised the election process with its use of special laws under an ongoing nationwide state of emergency.

‘Not a puppet’

But there is one candidate who has managed to remain on the ballot.
Mousa registered an hour before the final deadline in late January. His last-minute candidacy, by his own admission, is aimed at avoiding a one-horse race that treats the vote like a referendum on Sisi’s rule.
I saw the catastrophe coming,”. He said his participation makes the vote a democratic one. “President Sisi was going alone in this game, and if he falls, we all fall.”
Detractors have accused Mousa of being a stooge candidate, sanctioned by the regime to give the election a veneer of legitimacy.
Mousa admits he was a Sisi supporter before running, but he insists his campaign, run on a platform of job creation, is genuine and that he would make a better president.
“I want to tell the people I’m here for real. I’m here as a candidate willing and wishing and wanting to win,” Mousa said.
“People need to understand that I was not brought in as a puppet for anyone.”
Sources : CNN News ,  ME Politics Article. 

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