Egypt’s sham elections exposed at the count

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A woman celebrates Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's victory in Egyptian presidential elections in Tharir Square, in CairoBy Yvonne Ridley,

The British idiom “pig in a poke” could aptly be used to describe the state of the latest Egyptian election. It comes from the Middle Ages when dodgy butchers would try to palm-off low quality meat in a bag to an unsuspecting consumer who thought they were getting a real treat until they looked inside the poke, that is, the bag.

Weary Egyptians recognise the presidential election for what it was, a total sham. The 80 per cent plus who chose not to vote have, in effect, destroyed Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s moral legitimacy and claim to be a democratically elected leader.

I cringed and winced as the Egyptian regime bullied, bribed, cajoled and threatened the country’s voters to get out to the polling stations to cast their vote. There were even threats of fines being imposed for those who chose to stay at home. Once again Sisi and his goons tried to use force and called it democracy. When voting was extended to a third day Sisi began to look like a desperate man, and so he should with only a 12 per cent turnout.

I felt embarrassed for Hamdeen Sabbahi, who was the only other candidate in a presidential race no one else wanted to enter. It’s one thing being Sisi’s useful idiot but even Sabbahi did not want to become an international laughing stock and threatened to walk away when the polling stations remained open for a third day.

The European Union sent observers to monitor the election but they remain silent over the shockingly low turnout, which was estimated at below 12 per cent by the Arab Observatory for Rights and Freedoms.

So where were those tens of millions of Egyptians who, we were assured last year, wanted to see Mohamed Morsi kicked out of office? We know that more than 40,000 have been arrested since the military coup but even that does not account for the world’s worst election turnout.

According to the latest poll by the influential US-based research think tank Pew, nearly 40 per cent of Egyptians still value the Muslim Brotherhood even though it has laughingly being branded as a terrorist organisation by the ex-Field Marshall now sitting in the president’s palace.

The outcome of the elections was predictable on two levels. Sisi would seize power on a trickle of votes compared to the tsunami of silent protest from the absent electorate, and the Egyptian people will have been short-changed by getting a leader the majority don’t want; a pig in a poke, if you will, and it doesn’t matter how much lip gloss is painted on this particular pig, it will always be a pig.

The irony is that this farcical election will eventually pave the way for another revolution and another chance at democracy for the deserving Egyptians.

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