The presidency of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi appears to be a foregone conclusion after the Egyptian field marshal declared his candidacy Wednesday.
But amid a climate of expectations that Sisi will win the contest, there are also fears the election won’t help Egypt’s reputation, damaged by security tension and socio-economic problems.
The first step to improving things, however, lies in the election itself, as in seeing the authorities committed to allowing all eligible candidates to run their campaigns freely. This means that all candidates should be able to stage gatherings, media appearances and other activities without harassment. Sound competition is a must; Arab publics are fed up with hearing about elections won with 99.9 percent of the vote.
While the election process should be transparent and monitored by international observers and the media, the campaigns of Sisi and other contenders should also meet certain requirements: The candidates should put forward detailed programs that explain how they will address the deteriorating socio-economic situation and confront the threat of terror.
Egypt’s economy is in shambles, and the country is highly dependent on foreign aid, which is always a precarious source of support. On the other hand, Egypt remains rich in natural resources and national potential. The task of the next president should be to convince the public that they can unleash this tremendous potential, for example by ensuring that young people and women – who represent the country’s overwhelming majority – play a dynamic role in the Egyptian state.
One person is destined to win, but unless millions of people can vote freely, respect the result and then witness authentic reform and resurgence, it will be a hollow election.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 28, 2014, on page 7.