Egyptians say it pays to support El Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.- Reuters file photo
Atfih (Egypt) - President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is virtually assured of winning a second four-year term.
Published: Thu 25 Jan 2018, 10:00 PM
Last updated: Fri 26 Jan 2018, 12:41 AM
Businessmen loyal to Egypt's president are handing out cash and food to poor voters as they try to gather tens of thousands of signatures to support his bid for re-election in March.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is virtually assured of winning a second four-year term. Nearly all prominent critics have been jailed, left the country or gone silent. Three presidential hopefuls, including a former prime minister who could have lit up the race and a human rights lawyer, have withdrawn. A retired general has been arrested.
That has raised the distinct possibility that the March 26-28 election will effectively be a single-candidate referendum, similar to those held by autocratic leaders in the decades before the 2011 uprising.
El Sisi has repeatedly called on Egyptians to vote, perhaps fearing that a low turnout could undermine his legitimacy. That the vote is staggered over three days appears designed to maximise participation.
Businessmen loyal to El Sisi are meanwhile holding signature drives in which poor Egyptians register their support for the president and are given cash or food handouts. Presidential candidates must secure the "recommendations" of at least 20 lawmakers or 25,000 voters in order to get on the ballot. El Sisi already has the backing of hundreds of lawmakers.
In Atfih, a dusty town some 100km south of Cairo, several residents said they were paid 100 pounds each in exchange for their signatures. They said supporters of a local lawmaker and workers at a charity run by a businessman, Tareq Salman, were touring the area in cars urging residents to sign recommendations for El Sisi.
Those who agree are transported free of charge to the local notary office, they said. On Thursday, Salman led a festive procession of hundreds of people from the charity he runs to the local notary office to hand over recommendations for El Sisi.
"I am not interested in elections, but this cash is heaven's gift to me," 47-year-old housewife Haniya El Miligi said after she took part in the march.
A comfortable win all but guaranteed
> President Sisi is virtually assured of winning a second four-year term.
> Almost all prominent critics have been jailed, left the country or gone silent.
> Egyptians have been urged to vote amid fears low turnout could undermine Sisi legitimacy.
> Pro-Sisi businessmen run campaigns to elicit support for the president.
> Poor Egyptians are given cash or food handouts after they register their support for the president.