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For Egypt’s Sisi, re-election not in doubt despite declining popularity

Three days of voting in Egypt's presidential election ended Wednesday, and there’s no doubt about the outcome: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ran with no real opposition. While dozens of opposition figures and seven political parties called for an election boycott and turnout was low, Sisi has support in parliament and good relations with Israel and the United States. Hari Sreenivasan reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Three days of voting ended today in Egypt's presidential election. The outcome is not in doubt.

    President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi ran with no real opposition.

    As Hari Sreenivasan reports, seven years after the uprising there, democracy is further from reach, amid economic and security problems.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    President El-Sissi cast his ballot in one of the country's 13,000 polling stations, but his reelection was never really a question, and his lone opponent, Mousa Mostafa, heads a party that had endorsed Sissi.

    Other opponents were intimidated to withdraw or were arrested.

    Khaled Ali is an attorney who'd dropped out of the running.

  • Khaled Ali:

    All these indicators were pointing towards planned intentions to poison and corrupt the entire operation, and to evacuate it from its presumed democratic meaning.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Dozens of opposition figures and seven political parties called for an election boycott. Turnout, a key metric for Sissi, was low.

    Still, Sissi has strong political support, at least in Parliament. More than 80 percent of its members support him. And relations with Israel and the United States are firm. President Trump welcomed him to the White House last spring.

    Political science professor Dalia Fahmy specializes in the Middle East.

  • Dalia Fahmy:

    The future of U.S.-Egyptian relations is going to have to take into account a couple of things. Will we really take seriously the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people, which should lead to further stability? Or will we rethink U.S. strategy towards Egypt or U.S. strategy towards stability in the region as a whole?

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    In 2013, Sissi ousted then-President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, after the 2011 uprising that deposed longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. A year later, Sissi won more than 96 percent of the vote.

    Sissi has led a harsh security crackdown, imprisoning thousands. Sissi has gone after free expression, civil society and rivals both in the political and military realm, says Fahmy.

  • Dalia Fahmy:

    Instead of building schools and other infrastructure projects, he's actually had to build 16 new prisons. He's had a major clampdown on media, both domestic and international.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    But his popularity has been hurt by a bad economy. Strict economic reforms were enacted in 2016 to avoid insolvency. Inflation skyrocketed, with food prices rising by 30 percent.

    And while unemployment is around 11 percent, almost 80 percent of those without jobs are young people, all this as Sissi prosecutes a war with an ISIS-affiliated insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula. Armed groups there have killed more than 700 civilians and at least 1,000 security forces since 2014.

    In 2015, militants blew up a Russian civilian airliner, killing more than 200 people on board. Sissi ratcheted up the fight, but the insurgency persists.

    But Sissi isn't fighting this war alone. Egypt receives more than a billion dollars in U.S. military aid every year.

  • Dalia Fahmy:

    The United States has just announced that there will be a furthering of engagement and joint tactical missions in Sinai, which they have been doing for decades.

    But this increase lends itself to signal that the U.S. administration believes that it needs to play an increasing role in the region because Egypt cannot secure the region for itself.

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    The official results of the election will be announced Monday.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I am Hari Sreenivasan.

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