In the final day of voting in Egypt's presidential elections, former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi is coasting toward the victory we all knew was coming. The country's top general, who resigned his post so he could run for office (after deposing the previously elected president Mohammed Morsi last summer) faced little opposition in the vote.
Turnout was slightly less than last time, with about 44 percent of Egyptians voting, some eight points less than the 52 percent turnout that the election of Morsi commanded. Of course, that's partly because Morsi's party, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed and many Egyptians boycotted as result. There was also only one other candidate running. Sisi's opponent/sacrificial lamb was Hamdeen Sabahi, a left-wing politician from Baltim in the north.
Even so, the government had to extend voting for a second day in order to boost turnout and the credibility of the results.
Part of the inevitability of Sisi's victory has to do with Sisi's, well, some would say "illiberal" and some would say "undemocratic" approach to governance. Since Morsi was removed from power, the military has ruled the country by its own authority. Accordingly, all Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have been banned from holding meetings. Stories like the mass sentencing of hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members to death in show trials have dominated the news in Egypt this spring.
Absence of Sisi posters&celebratory atmosphere in Helwan.A vendor tld us: almost evry home here hs some1who ws either detained or martyred— Amina Ismail (@AminaIsmail) May 26, 2014
Once elected, Sisi will face a number of challenges, but none bigger than revitalizing the Egyptian economy, which was moribund even before Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was deposed in 2011. At least 64 percent of Egyptians claimed the economy was "bad" after the revolution that eventually brought Morsi to power. Now 76 percent rate the economy as bad with 50 percent of Egyptians living in poverty by some standards.
Most importantly, all these percentages are higher than the voter turnout, signaling a skepticism in Egypt, the biggest country in the Arab world, that just three years ago was a massively optimistic place at the heart of the Arab Spring.