After the end of the first day of the 2018 presidential elections in Egypt, the Cabinet released a statement saying that people’s participation is “moderate”, but questions have been raised around the remarkable low youth turnout in the queues outside the polling stations.
In the wake of a revolution and another mass uprising, youth had a leading role in the political arena and we started to see the young lining up in long queues in the elections, especially the 2012 presidential election, which saw high participation.
But quickly the young faces started to fade as the 2014 presidential elections.
Ahead of the 2018 elections, in which President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is assured victory, some experts forcasted a significant decrease in youth participation referring to low turnout in the electoral process since 2014, and moreover explained that it might be due to youth dissatisfaction with the general political scene in Egypt.
The head of National Media Hussien Zien said that the youth are lazy to participate in the electoral process and then urged them to cast their votes to show the world Egypt’s democratic electoral process.
Egypt Independent spoke to youth voters who participated in previous elections but chose not to go this time — some were busy because of their work, others were discontent about the political scene and a few said they doubted the fairness of the electoral process.
Sara Mosaad, 29, a pharmacist, and Nouran Moustafa, 30, a translator, both believe that the presidential elections of 2018 are not worthy of their time. It’s a “sarcastic play,” says Sara. “Given that we know very well the winner of the presidential elections, why shall we go and cast our ballots?” Nouran wondered.
Based on Sisi’s popularity, Doaa Magdy, 25, a designer, said that the result is known and that regardless of whether people vote or abstain, he would win in either case.
Accountant Amira Gamal said that the elections are a message to the world that people in Egypt are not a tool in hands of authority and that the result will be in favor of Sisi anyway so it’s not necessary to go and vote.
Meanwhile, Zainab Moustafa, 25, a journalist, lost confidence in the general political scene believing that nothing will change. “Participation in the elections is a waste of time,” she says.
Presenter Amr Adib said on Monday that the Egyptian youth are in state of “political rebellion.” He said that youth participation in elections worldwide is lower than the turnout of those who are older.
“Because we don’t have real, highly competitive elections like the one in 2012, where there were 13 presidential candidate strongly competing each other, we were hesitant choosing from them, and our decision was according to their presidential programs, we’ve never known who will win, ” Mariam Moustafa, a teacher, said.
Mohamed Ramadan, 25, a lawyer, said that young peoples’ reluctance to vote stems from them having lost trust in the electoral process and having no feeling of individual influence in the society.
“Some experts said the youth absence in elections is due to stability in Egypt as they explained that when a country is stable individuals won’t be enthusiastic enough to vote and they prefer to stay home and enjoy days off during the electoral process,” he said.
However, Sara Sami, 23, who works as an architect, said that she went and voted for Sisi as not to be a negative citizen and to provide her children with better future. “I have a full trust in Sisi and I hope he never dashes my hopes,” she said.
Mohamed Ibrahim, 29, a journalist, said that he is busy during his day-long work shift and cannot take a day off, so he can’t vote. “Doing my work is also a part of the country’s national duty,” he says.
While Islam Shrawy, 26, a physician, says he has a compelling excuse because he is conscripted in Egypt’s military, a compulsory service for Egyptian males under the age of 30.
Police and soldiers are barred from casting votes in the election.
A political academic paper entitled “Egyptian youth and political participation: between pretension, reluctance and re-empowerment,” conducted by the expert in the Political and Strategic Studies Center Al-Ahram Foundation Ziad Akl, said that there is a close relationship between the increase of youth political participation and the climate that allows for a high margin of freedom.
He gave an example of the constitutional referendum after the 25 January revolution, when youth participation was at its highest point due to their real engagement in the political scene.
He also pointed out the relationship between the youth and their trust in legal and political process and their participation levels, as well as other factors including transparency and control over the political process.
Ibrahim Mosaad, 25, security engineer, said the lack of more options is the reason for his refusal to go and cast his ballot.
“There is no competition and I believe it’s a waste of time and effort to stand in queues for something I know very well the result of.”