Photo’s source:; From left to right: Incumbent president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi; Abdel-Sanad Yamama, head of Egypt s oldest liberal party, the Wafd; Farid Zahran, head of the opposition Social Democratic Party; and Hazem Omar, head of the People s Republican Party.



The year 2023 has been a turbulent one for Egyptian politics: A struggling domestic economy impeded living standards and civil satisfaction, while the war in Gaza shakes up regional security concerns. In the midst of these issues looms an election that not only determines Egypt politics, but it holds importance for the whole Middle East. Egypt’s population amounts to 112 million people, which makes it the most populous Arab nation hosting a quarter of its people, while also ranking 3rd in African countries. Thus, its outcome may set the political trend along the fragile geopolitical crossroads Egypt significantly influences.

However, observers expect the election to be a one-sided affair. The incumbent president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is the runaway favourite for a third term (Cordall, 2023). His opponents on the ballot for the 3-day voting period between December 10th and 12th lack political reach, publicity, and campaign funds to draw proper competition to the omni-present Egyptian leader. More popular competitors failed to make the ballot for various reasons, thus sceptics question the representativeness of the electoral process (Holleis & Hussein, 2023). This research investigates the nature of this scepticism, the issues that fuel the societal discontent it roots in, and its probable impact on the results of the Egypt presidential election. Its results will be published after the ballot counting and appeal period on the 18th of December 2023, but the underlying issues may impact Egypt politics beyond this institutional date destined to demark overwhelming support for a third presidential term for Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

El-Sisi’s presidency

El-Sisi came into power after a period of political turmoil. When Hosni Mubarak was ousted in 2011 after 30 years of autocratic leadership in the Arab Spring protests, a period of political instability followed. Mohamed Mursi won the following 2012 elections as leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a party that is now considered extremist including ties to Hamas and subsequently banned in Egypt (Sorour, 2021). Mursi’s brief governing period was ended in 2013, as the military ousted him in a coup d’état and replaced him with the head of the army, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

Since then, President El-Sisi benefits from a large support on behalf of the military. El-Sisi won two elections in 2014 and 2018, both with the overwhelming majority of 97 percent and accompanied by opposition boycotts. A constitutional amendment followed via referendum, re-establishing the presidential terms to six years and remove the two-term limit. This laid the foundation for El-Sisi to contend in the running elections, where his previous success makes him the undisputed favourite for a third term potentially running until 2030 (Yee, 2023b).

Electoral competition

His competition has deteriorated compared to several vocal candidates prior to the election. The three remaining opponents lack political reach and breadth of coverage to properly compete with El-Sisi.

His most competitive opponent may be Farid Zahran, the head of the leftist Egyptian Social Democratic Party. The 66-year-old described his electoral program as an integrated civil and democratic alternative with political and economic reform at its core (Amin, 2023). He emphasized private sector involvement, debt restructuring, a comprehensive strategic plan for national industrial, agricultural, service, social and cultural projects, and empowerment of economic institutions as key matters to his presidential bid (EgyptToday, 2023c).

The second competitor is Abdel-Sanad Yamama, leader of the liberal Wafd party. His program clustered around a four-folded axes: Economic reform, legislative reform, educational reform, and preserving Egypt’s historical rights to the Nile River (EgyptToday, 2023a). He further emphasized liberal democracy, free enterprise, and addressing human rights issues as pillars to his program (Rafik, 2023).

The third competitor is Hazem Omar, head of the Republican People’s Party, which holds second largest block in the House of Representatives. The former senate member and chairman of the foreign relations committee clustered his program around mild economic, social, and political reforms, focusing on transforming local administration with an emphasize on tackling corruption (EgyptToday, 2023b). Omar positions himself much closer to El-Sisi than his fellow competitors.

The most popular contestants, however, did not make it onto the ballots. They either failed to meet the pre-election requirements of an endorsement of at least 20 members of parliament or 25.000 eligible voters, or encountered systematic restrictions and repercussions to their bid, often with such infringements leading candidates to fail the formal regulations. Notable dropouts include the popular former TV presenter Gameela Ismail, Fouad Badrawi and Ahmed El-Fadaly. Prior to the electoral race, popular dissident Hisham Kassem was arrested and thus could not participate as a candidate (The New Arab, 2023a).

The main antagonist to El-Sisi in the run-up to the elections was Ahmed El-Tantawi, the former head of the Al-Karama Party. El-Tantawi emerged as main critic of the Egyptian government potentially capable of mobilizing and uniting dissenting voices to a competitive level (Polimeno, 2023), but failed to secure sufficient domestic endorsements. His party blamed this on a wide-range of systematic repressive procedures, ranging from public employees instructed to institutionally or physically prevent El-Tantawi’s supporters to register their endorsement to a crackdown on vocal dissent putting several political opposition figures under arrest (Al Jazeera, 2023). El-Tantawi and his campaign team were arrested; they now face criminal charges for circulating election-related papers without official authorization (The New Arab, 2023b).

Main issues

All running and dropped-out competitors aside, El-Sisi has rallied considerable numbers of outspoken supporters. While opposition leaders claim his authoritarian stronghold on power as the sole reason for his expected re-election, significant support for El-Sisi lies in its government stability (Lewis, 2023). In comparison to neighboring issues, such as Libya, Sudan, or Palestine, the Egyptian government provided security to its citizens. Egyptians recognize his governing period as turning Egypt into an oasis of stability in a volatile region. This historically led to high approval rates for El-Sisi, even if they faced a recent decline concomitant to economic struggles.

Many Egyptians also praise El-Sisi for his capability to shield Egypt from heavier impact of the war in Gaza. They attribute El-Sisi competence in contributing to a solution in Gaza that supports Palestine while it prevents a refugee crisis in the Sinai peninsula or excessive involvement as a party to the conflict (Amin, 2023). Generally, in times of war or external threat people tend to rally behind the leader as they can exercise their power in providing leadership and guidance to its citizens. In that regard, the war in Gaza negatively effects Egypt as a country, but its media coverage and instrumentalization benefits its incumbent president (Saafan et al., 2023).

Contrary, the fierce domestic economic crises impeded El-Sisi’s approval rates. Among the most important problems is the currency devaluation that cut the value of the Egyptian pound almost in half. Inflation in October 2023 amounted to 38,5% in comparison to 2022. Following, the common Egyptian citizen struggled for funding their basic needs. Prices rose to record highs, especially food costs increased by 60% in one year. This is mainly down to a food import dependency, of which most strikingly growing wheat prices resulting from the Russian invasion into Ukraine burdening the population. As a result, experts estimate one third of the population to live in poverty, while another sixth lives at risk of poverty (Werr, 2023).

Critics attribute El-Sisi and his current government problems in unified and centralized governmental spending. One measure in that sense that stirred critics was an unpopular power cut plan running since July 2023. Further, the government is in the situation of dealing with large amount of foreign debt. Additionally, criticism is attributed to investment projects that did not ripe benefits (Kaldas, 2023).

One major concern to increased government spending is the $58 billion dollars pulled into the construction of the New Administrative Capital, a cost intensive loan-based project that aims at decoupling the government from populous Cairo. El-Sisi justifies this project by prevalent transportation and connectivity issues impeding government efficiency, but opponents suspect two-folded motivation: First, the new capital would provide physical distance from potential protest hotspots within Cairo, ensuring government security. Second, most of the construction procedures are executed via military institutions, de facto creating a cash flow from public funds into military funds (White & Hawthorne, 2023). As the Egypt government is taking further foreign loans to push the New Administrative Capital project, a few argue the priority for government projects and resource allocation, especially with regards to the prevailing economic crisis (Walsh & Yee, 2022).

Expected outcome

From the above-mentioned considerations, observers expect El-Sisi to not face any troubles achieving a landslide victory to be re-elected as Egyptian president. This is not only bound to the struggling opposition, but also to the general popularity El-Sisi built over time. However, in early autumn support for El-Sisi plummeted under the societal burden of economic struggles (Cook, 2023). As a result, the Egyptian government surprised with the political decision of holding early elections, seen as a precautionary measure to prevent challenges from a further toppling atmosphere. Since then, the arising topic of Gaza aided El-Sisi in relieving political pressure from economic issues towards successful agenda-setting of security matters in which El-Sisi traditionally enjoys high popularity (Yee, 2023a). Thus, electoral success for El-Sisi was proclaimed to be a mere formality rather than properly be in question.

On a different note, voter turnout is expected to be low, turnout being on decline since the 2013 elections. Due to the overwhelming superiority of El-Sisi’s electoral campaign and small visibility and popularity of his remaining competitors, citizens perceived the election as decided and assigned voting the status of unnecessary technicality. Additionally, many citizens supporting banned opposition candidates were expected to boycott the election as a response to government infringement to their bid for presidency in an effort to instrumentalize low turnout to question the election legitimacy (El-Hamalawy, 2023). In previous elections, the government incentivized voting with financial or material inducements to combat this strategy.

First projections

First preliminary results proved the assumptions of a landslide victory for incumbent President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to become true. His approximate result of slightly over 90% draws an undisputed victory, yet slightly falls below the 97% of both previous elections. The current race has Farid Zahran and Hazem Omar compete for second, whereas Abdel-Sanad Yamama lags behind in fourth (Hani, 2023). These projections confirm the expected electoral success for El-Sisi, and that the opposition did not stand a chance to challenge his position. It also proves government measures in the lead-up to be effective in restraining the opposition in a way that did not spark notable public dissent or turmoil on election days.

Voter turnout is projected to amount to 45% according to National Election Authority executive director Ahmed Bendari (Ahram Online, 2023). This number would amount for less than the 47% turnout in 2014, but more than at El-Sisi’s second win in 2018 where turnout amounted to 41%. If these projections materialize, then the oppositions strategy of reducing legitimacy by boycotting votes failed to achieve aspired success. Further, Arab League observers monitoring the election eased concerns by stating that the electoral process allowed voters to freely exercise their electoral rights (Yahia, 2023). Other entities observed financial and material incentives offered in exchange for voting for El-Sisi and mobilizing further voters to cast their ballots in favor of the reigning president (Mansour, 2023).


The research investigated the dynamics around incumbent president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and his main opposition while assessing key issues in the pre-election run-up. It further assessed how these dynamics impacted the election itself and its projected outcome.

As a main takeaway, El-Sisi is bound to secure an electoral victory that never seemed in doubt. Governmental actors combatted rising dissent by forcing the most promising oppositions candidates into submission, while remaining candidates lacked mobilization capability and political appeal to compete with El-Sisi. Further, the war in Gaza and its media reception aided El-Sisi’s bid in turning attention away from prevailing economic issues onto security issues in the short-term. In the long run, El-Sisi will have to deal with reoccurring economic, social, and political issues that mobilized his critics, and utilize his disputed mandate to lead Egypt out of its crisis (Mandour, 2023).

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi will thus govern Egypt for a third term. While issues at stake are unlikely to vanish in the near future, his re-election and strong stance on the war in Gaza further solidify his position leading one of the most important actors of the Arab and African world. President El-Sisi is praised for pacifying an unstable neighbourhood, benefitting from support of the military and trying to project Egypt to a new decade of peace and unity.



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Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

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About the author:


Mr. Birger POMMERENKE holds a BA in Political Science and Economics from Leuphana University Lüneburg, and studies for MA Comaparative Public Governance at Uni Münster and MSc European & Global Studies at University of Twente. His research focuses on economic and geopolitical international order contestation and strategic governance. He is also intern at MEPEI.

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