Egypt’s media Lauds Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s victory, but reaction abroad is mixed
by Dominika Maslikowski
Egyptian media largely applauded Field Marshal Abdul Fattah El-Sisi’s anticipated landslide victory in the presidential elections when an unofficial vote count came in just before the weekend showing the former defense minister had secured nearly 97 percent of valid votes. The reaction in international media was lukewarm or critical, however, with the exception of the Gulf media that commented that El-Sisi’s win would bring stability.
Egyptians danced in the streets and set off fireworks Thursday night after the unofficial results were announced, and local media largely joined in celebrating El-Sisi’s win. TV presenter Naila Emara, during a show on the Al Qahira Wal Nas (Cairo and the People) channel, wore a necklace with the word “Sisi” in oversized silver letters, opening the program by saying Egyptians had “succeeded cum laude with highest honors” in the elections.
After low turnout on May 26, the first day of voting, Egyptian TV personalities had pleaded for voters to go to the ballot. Amr Adeeb, on the show Cairo Today, said he was willing to “cut his veins” on air for people to go vote, while Tawfik Okasha on satellite channel Faraeen said women who took the day off to go shopping and cook should “be shot.”
The Muslim Brotherhood initially claimed the low turnout showed the success of their boycott campaign. “The people have announced the result and declared the defeat of the coup in the blood ballot battle by deserting polling stations across Egypt, despite unparalleled fraud and untold irregularities as well as coup terror and brutal intimidation,” the Anti-Coup Pro-Legitimacy National Alliance said in a statement on Wednesday, the last day of voting.
The final turnout was estimated as high as 46 percent after voting had been extended by an extra day, below the 80 percent predicted by Sisi’s campaign. More than 1 million votes had been invalidated, as pictures surfaced online of ballots with votes written in for Russian President Vladimir Putin or cartoon characters. Those who weren’t affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, mostly youth, boycotted the elections because they thought it would be a return to Mubarak-style military rule.
The Gulf states largely praised Sisi’s victory. “We all need to support Egypt as a nation and its people,” said Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, on Twitter on Saturday. “Egypt and its people are dear to us.” The UAE, one of Egypt’s biggest aid donors, would continue to back Egypt financially and would work with partners around the world to repair Egypt’s economy, UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed told Reuters on Saturday.
“El-Sisi is going to be the country’s next president because Egyptians crave stability, feel the military has a more moderate view of Islam and is better equipped to improve the country’s struggling economy, as it controls as much as 40 percent of it,” an opinion column said Saturday in Saudi newspaper Arab News.
Everybody loves a winner in Egypt’s presidential elections, said a column in the Emirati newspaper The National on Saturday, but the country has yet to establish “cohesive political parties with viable platforms.”
“Elections remain a popularity contest, with candidates largely unconcerned about communicating specific plans. In that regard, Mr El Sisi’s overwhelming popularity may have backfired. Knowing he’d win anyway, many saw no point in voting,” Maria Golia wrote in the column. “Turnout might have been higher if the campaigns had offered more substance.”
Headlines in the West following the elections were more critical. Robert Fisk wrote a scathing critique in the Independent, saying that El-Sisi’s victory was only several points shy of Saddam Hussein’s 100 percent win in the 2002 Iraqi presidential referendum, and most reported that Egypt’s elections were not necessarily ‘fair.’
The New York Times on Thursday, citing Democracy International, an American election-monitoring organization, and a team of observers from the European Union, claimed the elections didn’t meet international standards of democracy. According to Democracy International, the political context of the elections was “hugely troubling,” while the EU observers said respect for freedoms of association and expression guaranteed in Egypt’s Constitution “falls short,” the US newspaper reported.
At the press conference given by EU observers after the polling stations closed, one observer was quoted as saying, “I have to say as a man who went through many elections that what I was able to observed were elections that were democratic, peaceful and free but not necessarily always fair because obviously one candidate had the means and support from the press than the other one.”
Official results of Egypt’s latest presidential elections are set to be announced in the coming few days.