Egypt holds low-key Senate elections

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Egyptians wearing face masks against Covid-19 queue up to vote on August 11, 2020 for a new senate in an upper house election. Khaled Desouki | AFP
Egyptians wearing face masks against Covid-19 queue up to vote on August 11, 2020 for a new senate in an upper house election. Khaled Desouki | AFP

Egyptians went to vote Tuesday for a new Senate in an upper house election seen unlikely to revive vibrant political life under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule.

The two-day vote for 200 of the Senate’s 300 seats will be largely contested by candidates backing Sisi, who has quietened most opposition within and outside the legislature.

The remaining 100 Senators will be appointed by Sisi, who was an army general when he took power following the 2013 ouster of elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on the back of mass protests against his brief rule.

The Senate vote is unlikely to revitalise “the already stagnant political scene in Egypt,” said Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayyid, political science professor at Cairo University.

“It could be useful in terms of being a way to reward those backing Sisi.”

Billboards promoting little-known candidates have popped up across Cairo and other cities in recent weeks, and online videos have explained the Senate’s role and urged people to cast their ballots.

The vote comes as Egypt has reinstated the upper house, which had been abolished after Morsi’s ouster. It was previously called the Shura Council.

Under former president Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in a 2011 popular uprising, the upper house was largely reserved for the elite and members of his now defunct National Democratic Party.

Last year, Egyptians overwhelmingly voted in a referendum in favour of far-reaching constitutional amendments that included the reinstatement of the upper house.

The changes also could see Sisi’s rule extended until 2030, boosted his control over the judiciary and granted the army even greater influence in political life.

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