The path to the Presidential Palace: Monitoring and evaluation report of the Egyptian presidential elections 2023

This report is the final publication in the series of monitoring the Egyptian presidential elections (2024-2030) launched by the Egyptian Human Rights Front (EFHR) following the start of the electoral race in September and October 2023.

This final report provides a comprehensive monitoring overview of the Egyptian presidential elections held at the end of 2023, with results announced in December 2023. These elections hold significant importance for the Egyptian internal environment, not necessarily due to their final outcomes but due to considerations related to the current economic and political context, accompanied by a regional political crisis on the Egyptian eastern borders (Gaza). This crisis carries internal repercussions regarding the growing criticism and internal turmoil surrounding the management of the country’s political and economic affairs, even if these criticisms remain outside political and civil action channels. With the decline of parliamentary representation institutions and their subdued performance, citizens continue to focus and look to the presidency and its authority with greater interest, expecting it to address the most pressing issues and guide decision-making.

The significance of these elections also lies in the anticipation of the post-election phase, which is expected to bring announcements of more severe economic austerity measures. These elections were seen as having the potential to redirect the country’s economic and political trajectory, especially considering the precarious state of the Egyptian economy and the widening scope of disenchanted individuals refraining from participating in any form of institutional political processes, such as elections. This abstention reflects, to some extent, levels of confidence in the electoral process and the bodies responsible for its administration. However, logistical, informational, technological, and performance biases against candidates at an early stage of the presidential race have contributed to the disengagement of significant popular and political factions from the electoral process.

These current elections raise questions about the integrity and transparency of the newly established electoral management and supervision agencies, rekindling doubts about the seriousness of bureaucratic and state apparatuses in dealing with elections – even on a technical level – despite the focus of the current elections and the programs of its various candidates primarily on the economy, with secondary exposure to political processes and the authoritarian restrictions imposed on public and political work.

This report aims to monitor and evaluate the electoral management process in Egypt, considering the limited existing election monitoring and oversight efforts. This is particularly relevant given the recent decline in the presence of specialized and independent election monitoring organizations, both local and international. Many international organizations with expertise in electoral affairs have left Egypt, and local organizations that actively monitored elections prior to 2013 were not present.

The report relies in this assessment on the criteria and rules provided by the Universal Declaration of Principles for Election Observation, endorsed by the United Nations in 2005, which gives the final word in evaluating the integrity and credibility of an electoral process to the citizens of the state themselves, in addition to Egyptian local laws regulating elections. On the methodological side, the report relies on legal and constitutional tracking of the Egyptian electoral regulations, as well as local and international media monitoring of the elections, in addition to a number of data and correspondences obtained by the Egyptian Front from competing election campaigns regarding the voting and counting process.

Part One: General Context of the 2023 Presidential Elections

The Political and Economic Context

The 2023 presidential elections mark the third presidential election since 2013, which represented a significant political shift and the establishment of a new authoritarian regime. These elections follow those of 2014 and 2018. Similarly, it is the third election in which President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi competes and subsequently assumes the presidency.

The 2014 elections followed the dispersal of the Rabaa Square sit-in, where nearly a thousand supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi were killed. At that time, Sisi competed against the Nasserist leader Hamdeen Sabahi and won 97% of the votes in an election lacking genuine democratic competition amidst heightened repression.

During the first presidential term (2014-2018), a series of austerity measures began, including the devaluation of the local currency in 2016 and the signing of the agreement to cede the Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia. These actions created political momentum, coupled with dissatisfaction over deteriorating economic conditions. Egypt’s external borrowing reached $165 billion, leading to a collapse of the local currency, accompanied by historic inflation reaching 40.3% annually. Projections suggested an increase in the poverty rate in Egypt to 35.7% by the fiscal year 2022/2023. This eroded the purchasing power of Egyptians and added to their economic burdens. In the 2018 elections, several serious contenders emerged to challenge President Sisi, Among them were two military figures -who were military tried for announcing their intention to run for office- and former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, who withdrew from the race following reported pressures and threats. The list of candidates also included lawyer Khaled Ali, whose campaign faced harassment and security practices that led him to withdraw just before the start of the electoral process, leaving the field devoid of candidates with real electoral bases. At the last moment, an unknown candidate, a vocal supporter of President Sisi, emerged to challenge him. Despite limited name recognition, Sisi again ultimately secured an overwhelming victory, with a majority reaching 97% of the votes.

Economic issues dominated the scene in the 2023 elections due to the severe and unprecedented economic crisis resulting from the regime’s economic and political policies. The country witnessed a growing public discontent with the policies of the current president, accompanied by voices, including those close to the regime, calling for a change in the governing approach, adopting consultative policies with political opponents, and opening up the public sphere, as well as the necessity of holding pluralistic elections witnessing genuine competition.

Driven by the pressure of the economic crisis, the political system announced the adoption of several reform measures, such as the launch of the National Human Rights Strategy, the president’s call to political parties and several public figures for National Dialogue, and the reactivation of the Political Pardon Committee. However, these reform promises did not prevent the continued recording of various human rights violations and arbitrary arrests, in addition to the official procrastination in responding to requests from political forces to open up the public sphere and close the files of political prisoners. The official procrastination reinforced the general and political conviction after months of dialogue that it was not serious -which only resulted in recommendations to the presidency to be considered later- not aimed at the Egyptian domestic scene, but aimed at the West and international financial institutions to restore confidence in the governance system based on political and economic grounds internationally, and to preemptively respond to the expected demands of the Egyptian regime -for political reforms- especially with the approaching time for financial debt repayments.

Constitutional and Legal Context

The Egyptian electoral system has been operating under a secret ballot system since 2005, replacing the direct referendum system that had been in place for nearly fifty years. The most significant development preceding the 2023 elections is the amendment to the Egyptian constitution in 2019. This amendment modified the provision regarding the duration of the presidential term, extending it from four years to six years and allowing the president to run for office for more than two terms. This constitutional amendment received significant criticism, as it was seen as a clear maneuver aimed at prolonging President El-Sisi’s tenure in office.

Apart from this constitutional amendment, there have been no changes to the legal framework governing the conduct of elections, which has not attracted criticism or reservations from political forces, as its conditions are considered satisfactory to a large extent.

The 2023 presidential elections are governed by Law No. 45 of 2014 and its amendments by Law No. 140 of 2020, known as the Law on Direct Exercise of Political Rights, which regulates the conditions for exercising the right to vote and express opinions in constitutional referendums for those aged eighteen and above. It exempts officers and members of the main, subsidiary, and auxiliary armed forces and police officers from voting throughout their service and temporarily disenfranchised groups.

A specific law governs presidential elections, Law No. 22 of 2014, which sets the conditions for presidential candidacy in its second article. It requires presidential candidates to either obtain endorsements from 20 members of parliament or collect 25,000 endorsements from citizens through endorsements submitted to the Notary offices, provided that these endorsements are issued from at least 15 governorates, with a minimum of one thousand endorsements from each governorate. The law also prohibits members of parliament and citizens from endorsing more than one candidate.

Article 18 of the Presidential Elections Law regulates electoral campaigning and specifies the period of electoral silence. Candidates are required to launch their campaigns from the date of announcement of the final list of candidates until two days before the start of voting. In cases of run-off elections, campaigns continue from the day following the announcement until the day before the run-off vote. Outside of these periods, electoral silence is imposed, prohibiting candidates from campaigning through any means. The law also regulates the forms of electoral campaigning, including activities such as public or limited meetings, dialogues, the distribution of campaign materials such as posters and banners, and the use of various media. The law sets the maximum campaign expenditure for each candidate at twenty million pounds, with five million pounds for run-off elections.

The law also regulates the presence of representatives of candidates in the polling stations, granting each candidate the right to appoint representatives to represent them in each polling station, as determined by the Presidential Election Committee after notifying the competent Court of First Instance two days before the designated voting day. The polling stations start their work on schedule, whether or not the representatives are present. Regarding the announcement of results, the law stipulates that winning the elections requires an absolute majority of valid votes, otherwise, the elections proceed to a run-off between the top two candidates, with the winner being the one who receives the highest number of valid votes in the run-off.

Additionally, the law addresses other issues, such as the treatment of public media with candidates, emphasizing equality in their use of electoral advertising. Law No. 198 of 2017 outlines the role of the National Election Committee as responsible for organizing and supervising the electoral process in accordance with the law.

Political Map of Presidential Competitors:

The National Election Committee set a condition for aspiring presidential candidates to obtain endorsements from 20 parliamentarians or endorsements from 25,000 citizens. The first phase of the electoral campaign race began with attempts to meet the necessary legal threshold for official approval as presidential candidates, with six candidates: President El-Sisi, Farid Zahran, Hazem Omar, Abdel Sand Yemama, Ahmed Tantawi, and Gamila  Ismail, the only woman who announced her intention to run for the presidency.

Ahmed El-Tantawi, a former parliamentarian (2015-2020), emerged as the most serious challenger to President El-Sisi among the candidates, seeking to position himself as a safe democratic alternative amidst the current political and economic crisis. Tantawi has a history of opposition to President El-Sisi, criticizing his performance in negotiations with Ethiopia over Egypt’s water share, alleging “concessions” that could jeopardize Egyptian water and economic security in the future, as well as the 2019 constitutional amendments allowing for multiple presidential terms and extending the presidential term from four to six years, seen as tailored to President El-Sisi, and criticisms of amendments to the judiciary law enabling executive dominance over the judiciary, as well as poor economic management.

When El-Tantawi decided to enter the presidential elections, he adopted a critical stance towards the policies of President el-Sisi, particularly in the economic realm, urging him to allow free, fair, and competitive elections and presenting a program to address the current economic crisis and negotiate foreign debts with creditors.

El-Tantawi announced encountering numerous obstacles imposed by the authorities since declaring his presidential candidacy, escalating to physical repression. Several of his relatives and campaign members were arrested, and supporters were prevented from issuing the required endorsements for presidential candidacy. He personally faced harassment during campaign tours in provinces without security intervention to prevent verbal and physical violations, despite being documented. These obstacles and violations ultimately led Tantawi to withdraw from the presidential elections for failing to obtain the required endorsements legally for candidacy due to the refusal to grant his supporters the necessary endorsements to meet the legal threshold, leading to early exclusion from the election race.

Similarly, Gamila Ismail’s campaign, the only woman in the elections, faced several obstacles during the endorsement collection phase. These obstacles included preventing her supporters from issuing endorsements at several Notary offices in Cairo, Menoufia, and Dakahlia. Additionally, one of the women affiliated with her campaign was subjected to harassment and physical violence. This situation prompted her to withdraw from the presidential race during the initial phase of endorsement collection due to fears of escalating violence towards her electoral bloc or campaign members. These fears arose in the absence of legal and security protection for them.

The first phase of the electoral ended with the announcement by the National Election Committee of four candidates meeting the legal requirements for submitting their candidacy papers for the presidential elections, as follows:

Regarding the political blocs, it should be noted that both Farid Zahran, Ahmed El-Tantawi, and Gamila Ismail were part of the Democratic Civil Movement, which witnessed differences in perspectives prior to the presidential elections, especially with Tantawi’s announcement of his candidacy. The Movement decided to wait until the end of the endorsement collection phase to officially announce which of the three candidates it would support based on who among them had the best chance of obtaining endorsements. The Movement’s final decision was to withdraw from the elections following what Ahmed Tantawi and Gamila Ismail faced in terms of harassment and persecution. In contrast, Farid Zahran persisted in his decision to compete in the elections. Then, the Movement adopted an official position of boycotting the 2023 presidential elections, stating in a statement:

“The violations accompanying the nomination procedures, which undermined the guarantees of fairness and the basic rules of competition, turned the elections into a convincing referendum in an engineered process with overt interference from state agencies, turning the scene in front of the Notary offices into a tragedy and a complete farce, depriving many citizens in all cities of Egypt from participating, while the queues were crowded with those who were mobilized to endorsement the current president.”

This statement led the Egyptian Social Democratic Party to freeze its membership in the movement due to these differences, at a time when questions arose about how Zahran obtained endorsements from 30 parliamentarians while his party only holds seven seats, in addition to two seats held by the Justice Party (Hezb El-Adl), a member of the Civil Movement as well. This especially raised questions given the party’s refusal to disclose the names of the members who endorsed Zahran and their parties and their insistence on running in these elections despite all indicators reflecting a lack of seriousness. It is worth noting that Zahran has repeatedly refused to disclose the names of the MPs who endorsed him or their parties, which he justified by these members’ desire to keep their names hidden.

In terms of partisan support for the final presidential candidates, parliamentary party blocs divided their support as follows:

The majority of political parties expressed their support for President El-Sisi, including the Al-Nour and the Free Egyptians parties, in addition to parliamentary majority parties affiliated with the regime and the presidency, namely the Future of the Nation (Hez Mostakbal Wattan) and Homeland Defenders parties (Hezb Homat El-Wattan). These parties are fully integrated into the political system, as evidenced by their parliamentary performance as indicated by investigative reports indicating their connection to the alliance between these parties and security agencies, which allowed these parties to be present in parliament.

As for the candidate Farid Zahran, he received support from only one party, the Justice Party, which holds only two seats in parliament, in addition to his own party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party. Meanwhile, the candidates Abdel Sanad Yamama and Hazem Omar received support from their respective parties – Al-Wafd and the Republican People’s Party – in order, without the possibility of tracking support from any electoral or party blocs, or public figures for each of them. This has also raised questions in light of the statement made by the head of the Al-Wafd Party after the elections, acknowledging that a significant number of party members voted for President el-Sisi in the ongoing elections, and he did not object to it.

On another note, the Republican People’s Party was among the parties supporting President El-Sisi and his policies until recently, from as early as 2014, with support continuing until recently, just before the party leader announced his candidacy for the presidential elections.

Regarding the presidential candidates’ speeches and programs

Current President El-Sisi: No specific electoral program has been observed for President el-Sisi in these elections. The campaign efforts focused on presenting his achievements during the past years. His campaign manager, Mahmoud Fawzi, justified the absence of an electoral program by stating that “great leaders present visions and set high goals, not just projects or electoral programs.” He also stated that governments present electoral programs to gain the confidence of parliament or by members of parliament when running for candidacy, and these conditions and requirements do not apply to President el-Sisi’s case.

Farid Zahran: With a history of political activity dating back to the 1970s, Zahran’s electoral program focused on several axes, most notably health and education, promising to increase spending on them to constitutional proportions. The head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party included a political dimension in his program by calling for a mixed political system that combines presidential and parliamentary elements.

Hazem Omar: In various campaign events, Hazem Omar spoke about a comprehensive program, describing it in his words as “very large, and cannot be revealed through all media outlets or conferences.” His official propaganda carried political aspects, describing them as strategic, including peaceful power transition, reducing political polarization, preserving state security, military, and service institutions, balancing national security with public freedoms, and addressing the effects of the political turmoil of the past decade. In his tours of the provinces, he presented less politicized electoral axes related to local needs, such as forming local councils to raise issues to the cabinet for consideration and addressing unemployment and education, among others. When questioned about his swift change from supporting President el-Sisi to competing in the current elections and the motives behind it, Hazem Omar stated that the motive was an attempt to enhance the political process.

Abdel Sanad Yemama: His electoral program focuses on rescheduling debts through negotiation with international creditors, attracting foreign investment to infrastructure and service projects, raising the minimum wage, containing the informal economy, improving education, and imposing taxes on closed residential and commercial units. The notable aspect about Yamama, similar to Hazem Omar, is the question regarding the motives behind their candidacy given the consideration of the bloc of supporters of the regime since early times and their actual support for President El-Sisi, which changed to competition in the presidential elections against President el-Sisi. Yamama stated this following the end of the presidential elections and his early acceptance of his party members voting for President el-Sisi, considering him “the necessary and most appropriate candidate for the current circumstances,” without obliging them to vote for him, despite his candidacy being a party decision that calls for party alignment in this electoral competition.

The most important note regarding the electoral programs of Yamama and Hazem Omar is that their announcement of their electoral programs came after they managed to obtain endorsements from MPs and endorsements from citizens already, and no program was observed for them before that, during the attempt to gather the required legal endorsements in the first stage of the elections.

Part Two: Management of Presidential Elections National Election Committee  

One of the significant indicators of the seriousness of elections and the call to strengthen their integrity is the bodies responsible for the electoral process, in terms of independence from the executive authority or any political or partisan biases, in addition to their professional and neutral performance towards all competitors.

The National Election Committee, established in 2017 by Law No. 198, is responsible for managing elections. According to this law, the Committee is independent, with legal personality, and enjoys technical, financial, and administrative independence. The Committee is responsible for managing referendums and presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. The recent presidential elections (2024-2030) mark the fourth electoral test for the National Election Committee since its establishment, having managed three previous elections: the presidential elections in 2018 and the parliamentary elections for both the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2020.

The President appointed the Executive Director of the Committee and its three deputies. Before the recent presidential elections, the Executive Director of the Committee, Counselor Hazem Badawi, Deputy President of the Court of Cassation, was appointed on October 3, 2023, by a decision from the President No. 426 of 2023, during the first phase of the presidential elections (collecting endorsements). This appointment raised considerable reservations and skepticism from opposition candidates and politicians about the independence of the Committee.

Timing of Elections

The National Election Committee announced the timetable for the presidential elections on September 25, 2023, setting the election date in December 2023, leaving only two months to select electoral candidates and communicate with voters.

According to the National Election Committee’s announcement, the first phase runs from September 25 to October 15, 2023 (three weeks), allowing potential candidates to tour cities, meet citizens, and attend various forums to convince citizens to issue official endorsements supporting their presidential candidacy. However, opponents and civil society organizations criticized this short period, given Egypt’s large electorate and the number of provinces/cities requiring visits to gather initial electoral support.

The second phase of the electoral process, the campaigning period, was limited to just one month for domestic elections (November 9 – December 8, 2023) and only twenty days for Egyptians abroad (November 9 – 29, 2023). These durations were deemed insufficient since other candidates, apart from President el-Sisi, were not well known, and this period did not allow for effective and sufficient communication with citizens. This was considered evidence of the lack of seriousness in the elections and the seriousness of the candidates themselves.

The timetable announced by the Committee accelerated the electoral process without justification, not allowing competing candidates enough time for effective and sufficient communication with citizens. All elections, from the opening of endorsement issuance for candidates to the closing of voting on December 12, 2023, lasted less than three months, despite the constitution’s provision for the end of President Sisi’s second term after six years from his declaration as president in 2018, which would end on April 2, 2024. This has already been announced, as President Sisi will take the constitutional oath in April 2024, which can be linked to the need for President Sisi to take harsh economic measures at the beginning of 2024.

Electoral Districts Division

Among the indicators that measure the seriousness of the electoral process and the commitment to its democracy is the issue of determining electoral districts, measuring the balance of electoral boundaries, and ensuring equality in general voting. Several factors should be considered during the division of electoral districts, notably the number of voters and the balance of districts with this number.

The National Election Committee has the authority to appoint the offices of the Notary affiliated with the Ministry of Justice, where citizens are allowed to issue official endorsements for their candidates in the first stage of the elections and elevate them to the second stage. The authority allocated 217 offices, a significantly lesser number – about one-third – compared to the number of offices allocated in the 2018 presidential elections, which amounted to 389 offices. This division does not consider the population’s demographic increase, which introduced a wide sector of young citizens eligible to vote, considering Egypt’s 27 governorates and not focusing solely on major cities.

The National Election Committee also allocated less than 12,000 sub-committees for the 2024 presidential elections, a very small number compared to the presidential elections in 2014 and 2018, where approximately 14,000 sub-committees were allocated despite the increase in the number of eligible voters from 54 million voters in 2014 to 67 million voters this year 2023. Judicial sources speaking to a local newspaper indicated that the election authority enlisted a very small number of judges compared to previous elections .

Integration of Persons with Disabilities

The legislative structure in Egypt seeks to accommodate persons with disabilities, given the significant size of this demographic, which is estimated to reach up to 10% of the population. Moreover, global attention to this group as one of the vulnerable categories requiring integration into public life is considered. Therefore, providing information and necessary facilitations for persons with disabilities are among the most important indicators to ensure citizens’ right to participate in the electoral process. This includes integrating the population to ensure their representative rights are exercised effectively, particularly in the political process and, specifically in the electoral process. Consequently, voting procedures and accompanying materials should be easily understandable, usable, accessible, and effective. Law No. 45 of 2014, directly granting political rights, regulates the method of casting votes for persons with disabilities by expressing their opinion orally to the head of the sub-committee, who will then record it on the voter’s card and register the voter’s attendance in the electoral rolls. This provision takes into account one category of persons with disabilities, which includes other categories, such as those with visual impairments, which may require future amendments to reflect this diversity and different needs.

In this regard, the National Election Committee has established an operational connection with the National Council for Persons with Disabilities through an operations room during voting days to receive and address complaints. Additionally, several facilitations have been provided for persons with disabilities in collaboration with the committee and the Ministry of Social Solidarity, including:

  • Developing and designing the ballot model in Braille for visually impaired individuals to facilitate secret voting.
  • Providing the “Video Call” service for persons with hearing impairments to identify polling stations, with sign language provided within the polling stations through “stickers” to facilitate understanding of the voting process.
  • Producing educational videos and short films translated into sign language to encourage persons with disabilities to participate in voting.
  • Ensuring assistance for persons with mobility disabilities if needed.
  • Establishing polling stations on ground floors.
  • Assisting the authority in educating voters with disabilities about the importance of participating in the electoral process.
  • Exchanging publications and printed materials in the field of political awareness.
  • Participating in media coverage of all activities of the National Election Committee and translating them into sign language.
  • Referring to the provision of the Braille ballot in TV and radio awareness.
  • Placing signs in polling stations explains the steps of expressing opinions in sign language.
  • Assisting the Committee in preparing voting committees tailored to the nature of each disability.
  • Providing an operations room within the council to monitor the electoral process and address complaints about any difficulties faced by persons with disabilities in the electoral process.

However, in reality, both presidential candidates, Farid Zahrane and Abdul Sanad Yamama complained about the absence of Braille voting papers allocated for the first time for voting by visually impaired persons in some polling stations nationwide. Additionally, a leader from the Future of the Homeland Party mentioned the provision of equipped cars and wheelchairs to assist persons with disabilities throughout the election period. This situation effectively makes persons with disabilities vulnerable to the ruling regime’s parties to influence and direct their electoral votes.

Technology and Elections

The Egyptian electoral system has been striving for fair and transparent elections since the adoption of the secret ballot system. Numerous reports from election monitoring bodies since 2005 have highlighted various violations and irregularities affecting the integrity and transparency of elections. Manual counting procedures have been identified as one of the main causes associated with these violations and electoral breaches in favor of state-backed candidates and the regime.

The political openness introduced by the January 25th Revolution led to several attempts to address this issue and leverage the experiences of other countries that implement electronic voting. In recent years, the Egyptian government has announced plans for digital transformation gradually implemented across various sectors, including services, official transactions, legal matters, and political processes. Some Egyptian bodies have conducted elections using electronic systems in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development. For example, in June 2022, the Administrative Prosecution Club board elections were conducted electronically after developing a voting program with the Intellectual Property Rights Office. The Ministry of Planning adopted this program, and similar electronic voting systems were used in the Musicians Syndicate elections in the same year.

Regarding representative and political institutions, the parliament approved electronic voting to organize the voting process on decisions and laws to ensure accurate counting for supporters and opponents. However, its implementation was short-lived, with various MPs indicating that it was selectively applied only to record attendance and abstentions and suspended during voting on laws.

Despite previous demands to implement electronic voting, the National Election Committee has not responded, nor has it announced the gradual implementation of the system or benefited from the experiences of other institutions or countries. Although Law No. 198 of 2017 regarding the National Election Committee grants it the right to determine the use of communication means and electronic voting in all or some stages of referendums and elections, in the 2024 presidential elections, the authority decided not to use technology except for the phase of collecting endorsements. Ahmed Bandari, the Executive Director of the  National Election Committee, emphasized the need to amend the constitution for electronic voting application, citing technical issues hindering its implementation.


Despite acknowledging these technical problems and the weakness of the technological infrastructure, the committee did not hesitate to use technology in the initial phase of collecting endorsements to determine electoral candidates. However, technical malfunctions were reported, leading to delays in issuing endorsements for some candidates’ endorsements, while others, such as President El-Sisi, were unaffected.

The National Election Committee admitted the existence of malfunctions in the electronic system for issuing endorsements and stated that it had rectified these malfunctions by deploying additional tablet devices to expedite the issuance process. However, this move carried political implications, with some viewing it as an intentional excuse to appease opposition supporters. If true, it reflects the lack of preparedness of the Ministry of Justice and the National Election Committee to handle elections efficiently.

Despite calls to use technology in the voting process to prevent fraud and ensure accurate counting, the Executive Director of the National Election Committee insisted that implementing electronic voting requires amending the constitution accordingly. He referred to Article 1 of the Presidential Elections Law, which states that the president is elected through direct general secret balloting. However, neither the constitutional text nor Article 1 of the Presidential Elections Law explicitly limits voting to the manual system. Only Article 28 of the same law mentions each election committee’s adoption of manual counting and sorting, as documented in official records.

The utilization of technology and digitization in the electoral process could increase voter turnout, especially among elderly individuals who face long waits at polling stations. However, this approach may create congestion at polling stations, reflecting confidence in the electoral process and compensating for low voter numbers.

Regarding the selective approach to technology, the High Election Commission declared that electronic means, such as email, are acceptable methods for receiving complaints about presidential candidates. However, this decision contradicts the limited technological infrastructure, especially given the legal time constraints for candidates to report complaints and objections regarding the election process, which electronic mechanisms may not effectively address.

Regarding the accessibility of information for voters, the National Election Committee has provided two methods for citizens to identify their polling stations and their numbers in the voter registers: accessing the authority’s website and entering their national ID number or sending a text message with their national ID number to a designated mobile number. However, despite the increasing internet usage in Egypt, over 15 million illiterate individuals lack access to information about their polling stations or the ability to vote accurately, allowing state-backed parties to exploit their votes.

Personnel affiliated with the National Election Committee :

The law governing the National Election Committee regulates its subordinate bodies and administrative structure, which includes senior administrative levels and sub-committees in primary courts in the governorates. This also encompasses the employees of the Authority, who carry out its executive and logistical work, as well as those working in sub-committees, both public and private, who are tasked with sorting votes and managing the voting process within the committees.

The law does not specify other administrative units or tasks for the Authority, such as mentioning employees or workers who can assist voters in determining their polling stations and guiding them. This is particularly significant given the Authority’s own statements regarding the inability to rely on technology in elections heavily. The importance of these considerations lies in their potential to integrate various segments of citizens into the electoral process by facilitating the necessary information for voting and serving them neutrally away from competing political forces or political interests in the elections.

Observations made by local monitors have reflected the shortcomings in addressing this aspect. Parties close to the authorities have filled this void and sought to benefit from it by being heavily present in various polling stations. They intervened with citizens to influence their choices under the pretext of “facilitating citizens to know their polling stations and positions in the voter rolls.” These parties set up tents in front of each sub-committee containing an “election contractor,” holding lists containing the voters’ names in each committee. They organized the queues and gave each citizen a ballot paper marked with the number of their committee.

Additionally, volunteers from the Future of the Nation Party, the Homeland Protectors, and unidentified volunteers from the June 30 Revolution participated. This is alongside the contribution of the “Decent Life” Foundation – an institution established following an initiative by the current president, El-Sisi, in 2019 – which provided 11,000 volunteers to monitor the elections and facilitate for citizens. Volunteers from the Ministry of Youth and Sports in several governorates, including Luxor and Damietta, also participated. All of them are volunteers, raising doubts about their affiliations to the state and its bureaucratic apparatus. Adjudication and resolution of electoral complaints:

Effective recourse and the right to challenge election results, seek redress for aggrieved parties in the electoral process, and access to independent review in appeal processes are fundamental guarantees to increase citizens’ confidence in the electoral process and the integrity of the process as a whole.

An amendment to the Law on Directing Political Rights grants the National Election Committee the exclusive right to issue decisions on complaints submitted by candidates, effectively combining the authority of managing elections and the judiciary’s authority to decide on complaints and appeals. This is considering the appointment of the President of the Republic of the Executive Director of the Authority and his deputies, as previously mentioned.

According to decisions issued by the Authority for Organizing Elections, the Authority has formed a committee to receive and examine complaints related to presidential elections. The Executive Director chairs the committee along with his deputies, which predominantly gives the examination an administrative rather than a judicial nature.

The Authority has opted for a system of adjudication in complaints that operates on a progressive basis. The committee serves as the first threshold to receive and sort complaints and grievances, determining those worthy of escalation to the judiciary for judicial adjudication – the Supreme Administrative Court – and those that do not merit such escalation within a time frame not exceeding two days to resolve the seriousness of the complaint. The judiciary intervenes legally and judiciously to examine complaints and appeals after the announcement of the election results and the actual determination of the winner. The practical experience of presidential elections reveals that the first stage of elections witnesses real competition for the presidential position, and it is the stage that witnesses the greatest violations, which are not fully controlled by the executive authority. This was evidenced by the National Election Committee’s refusal to acknowledge and investigate several serious violations that occurred during the phase of collecting authorizations, describing these violations as “nothing more than baseless allegations in reality or fact.”

Similarly, regarding the mechanisms reflecting the lack of seriousness in facilitating elections and ensuring a competitive environment, the Authority’s determination of the tools and methods through which electoral campaign complaints are accepted was evident. The committee – by its decision No. 12 – specified the possibility of receiving complaints via fax or regular mail, in addition to email, which is unrealistic considering the legal time frame for submitting complaints, which extends for two days, followed by the adjudication of the complaint within another two days. This is incongruent with the nature and speed of the performance of Egyptian postal services, which take more than two days to process requests, meaning a high probability of missing legal complaint opportunities for candidates.

Electoral Campaigns:

Regarding the campaign activities organized by the candidates during the official campaigning period, candidate Abdel Sond Yemama held a few electoral conferences, while candidate Hazem Omar organized only four electoral conferences in several governorates, where they addressed some of the key points of their electoral programs mentioned above. As for the promotional tools of the campaign, it was observed that Farid Zahrane held several electoral conferences in various governorates. Additionally, no electoral or promotional conferences were observed for the incumbent president to rally supporters and voters.

The electoral campaigns also included one debate among the four candidates via a video feature, which was not attended by President Sisi, who was a candidate at that time. Instead, a member of his presidential campaign office, MP Emad Khalil, attended the debate on his behalf. Furthermore, the four presidential candidates relied on social media platforms such as Facebook and platform X to promote their electoral programs.

Returning to the period preceding the start of the electoral campaigns, we find that both Abdel Sond Yemama, Hazem Omar, and Farid Zahrane received some media coverage to express their ideas and electoral programs. They were hosted on several television programs and local newspapers. Even the official first channel aired infographics for Farid Zahrane, Hazem Omar, and Abdel Sond Yemama. Meanwhile, Tantawi did not receive any official media or press coverage, and his appearances were limited to his own platforms on social media and some independent media institutions.

Vote Counting and Election Results Announcement:

The most notable feature of the 2005 elections, which ensured results contrary to the expectations of the executive authority at that time, was the deployment of judges to oversee the elections in Egypt. They were given significant powers to count the votes and announce the winners directly as soon as the counting was completed at the polling stations – clusters in neighborhoods and geographical areas – thereby limiting opportunities for executive intervention in shaping and altering the final results.

This principle, which guaranteed a degree of integrity to the elections and led to political activism at that time, witnessed a significant change in the current context. With the National Election Committee assuming responsibility for managing the elections, judges were largely replaced in overseeing the elections, counting the votes, and managing the sub-committees, being substituted by employees affiliated with the authority or from the state’s bureaucratic apparatus. However, the use of judges in the electoral process remains at the discretion of the authority without restriction.

Furthermore, the authority alone is responsible for announcing the election results without involvement from the general committees, including the sub-committees. The authority announces the final election results within five days following the end of voting. The National Election Committee clearly issued instructions prohibiting embassies and sub-committees from announcing the results in overseas elections. This makes these elections devoid of direct and immediate indicators or signals that can be monitored on the ground, further undermining confidence in the elections and their conduct.

Part Three: Information Environment

Observers and Candidates’ Representatives:

The presence of local and international observers in the electoral process, from organizations specialized in election monitoring, along with the media and international organizations, is one of the important indicators in assessing the expected seriousness and integrity of elections. This means that such monitoring should encompass the periods before, during, and after the elections, allowing these observers to freely gather appropriate and relevant information for their monitoring and observation tasks.

The current elections did not witness any invitations from the official Egyptian state to external organizations or entities interested in the elections to come and monitor the Egyptian elections. This includes entities such as the African Union, the European Union, or EU bodies concerned with democracy and elections, as well as international organizations with expertise and a history of election monitoring worldwide.

In this regard, there have been calls from some figures, including former potential candidate Ahmed Tantawi, for the necessity of international oversight and a call for the United Nations to supervise the 2024 Egyptian elections fully. However, these calls were met with rejection, and the National Election Committee merely invited accredited diplomatic missions within Egypt to monitor the electoral process. However, this invitation to diplomatic missions already present in Egypt does not necessarily ensure their ability to freely express their opinions on the elections, for fear of damaging diplomatic relations with the Egyptian side, limiting its usefulness and effectiveness in accurate monitoring and evaluation.

The National Election Committee issued several decisions allowing 43 civil society associations, both Egyptian and foreign, as well as media outlets supportive of the current authority and international media outlets, all of which are unknown to observers of Egyptian affairs or on the global or regional levels.

Regarding the local organizations permitted to monitor the elections, it was observed that any source or decision was absent on the necessary standards for an organization to obtain permission to monitor the elections. Also, it was noted that the majority of them operate in the development and charitable sector and human rights institutions formed by former politicians in the Egyptian state, whether security experts or political advisers to the Mubarak regime and the current executive authority. The establishment of most of these organizations occurred after 2013. This led to widespread skepticism among the opposition and observers of Egyptian domestic politics regarding the performance of these monitoring organizations, given their position in political work and major political figures in the Egyptian scene after 2013, in contrast to the campaign launched against civil society work since then to purge it from politicized entities or opponents of official policies. Also, the recency of these organizations and the absence of a political dimension raises the issue of the lack of technical expertise in monitoring and observing elections among these organizations, as well as their lack of specialization in election monitoring and integrity, which does not make their reports or work a reliable or true reflection of the electoral process.

Among the monitoring bodies in the elections were the National Councils of the State, including the National Council for Women, the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, and the National Council for Human Rights. In general, the number of organizations monitoring the presidential elections has seen a continuous decline since the 2014 presidential elections, passing through the 2018 elections to the current elections, with the number of organizations being 86 and 70, respectively in the 2014 and 2018 elections.

In this context, the National Election Committee previously excluded the “Sadat Association for Development and Social Care,” affiliated with former parliamentarian Mohamed Anwar Sadat, from overseeing the elections. The association was described in a statement by the National Authority as only granting approval to “friendly and cooperative associations and councils” despite meeting all the registration requirements and criteria.


Candidate Access to Media:

One of the key indicators of the integrity and democracy of the electoral process is the fairness and impartiality of the media, which should be accessible to all political parties and candidates for campaign purposes. This is particularly crucial in situations where the government controls the majority of mainstream media outlets. All candidates should have equal opportunities for media coverage. Private media outlets should not favor the incumbent government, providing them with different or preferential media coverage compared to other candidates. Media coverage should be fair, and just, and adhere to the highest ethical standards of objective and neutral journalism to enable citizens/voters to access comprehensive information about the candidates available to them.

In the Egyptian context, Egyptian authorities have significantly restricted press freedom and media in unprecedented ways since the closure of the public political sphere following the events of 2013. Approximately 600 websites, including 100 news and journalistic websites, have been blocked. Meanwhile, the United Media Services Company, owned by Eagle Capital Investments, a subsidiary of the intelligence apparatus, controls the majority of visual and auditory media outlets such as the Life Group, DMC Group, Cairo News, Extra News, CBC Group, and ON channels, in addition to newspapers like Al-Dostour, Al-Watan, and Al-Youm Al-Sabea, along with several others. For years, the media has not allowed hosting any political opposition figures Sisi, or heads of opposition parties. Egyptian newspapers refuse to publish opinion articles or news that contradict or criticize the current president.

“A picture from a television interview with presidential candidates and a representative of the candidate: El-Sisi”

In the recent presidential elections of 2023, for the first time since the 2012 presidential elections, a few television and press interviews were allowed with competing candidates against the incumbent President El-Sisi prior to the voting day to present their electoral programs. In contrast, the incumbent president did not appear on television screens as a presidential candidate before the elections, nor did he personally attend the debate with other competitors. His appearances on media channels and newspapers remained limited to his role as the president of the republic.

United Media Services Company played a role in the media blackout on the electoral process, violating the neutrality of media channels and newspapers in their coverage of the elections. The company issued An internal bulletin and sent it to its affiliated channels and newspapers, prohibiting the filming or broadcasting of any violations during the electoral process. Specifically, it banned the broadcast of scenes depicting crowd mobilization and the distribution of food items to citizens and deliberately prohibited the display of buses transporting citizens to the polling stations. The instructions also included a ban on filming scenes that violate public morals, referring to the famous dance scenes in front of polling stations.

In parallel with the work of state-owned channels and newspapers in denying any violations in the electoral process, the General Authority for Information issued a report on the third day of voting in the elections, celebrating the monitoring of 528 journalists representing 110 media outlets from 33 countries around the world. The report stated that these journalists did not observe any violations or irregularities in the electoral process, considering this as an international testimony to the integrity of the electoral process. However, none of the data issued by the General Authority for Information clarifies the limits and warnings stated in permits for foreign journalists covering the elections. It does not clarify whether these journalists monitored and observed the elections in various governorates freely and independently, as reported in news coverage. Additionally, the report mentioned only three media platforms that published reports praising the fairness of the elections, while several prominent Western media outlets, collected by the “Matsadak” platform, reported several violations that tainted the electoral process during the voting days, such as Reuters, The New York Times, and Deutsche Welle.

Election Violations and Abuses:

One of the most important criteria for free, fair, and democratic elections, connected to the will of the people and their right to determine their destiny, is ensuring the exercise of freedom of expression, the absence of coercion or discrimination, and the right to personal security, free from intimidation and threats. It is imperative to safeguard citizens/voters and eligible candidates from violence, retaliation, intimidation, or bribery based on their electoral choices.

Electoral crimes encompass actions and patterns aimed at undermining the integrity and transparency of the electoral process, or any breach of voters’ rights and their freedom to choose their representatives. These crimes include vote-buying and voter intimidation. Electoral fraud is one of the most serious offenses, punishable under Article 52 of the Presidential Elections Law by imprisonment and fines for anyone who offers or promises benefits to induce a person to vote in a certain manner or refrain from voting.

During the first stage of the electoral race, which involves collecting legal endorsements necessary for advancing to the second stage of the elections, the most prominent violation against the opposition candidate Gamila  Ismail, and the opposition candidate Ahmed al-Tantawi, considered the most serious among the candidates, who had shown potential to unite opposition forces against the current regime. These violations included:

Physical and verbal assaults on members of Ahmed al-Tantawi’s campaign by thugs in various provinces without law enforcement intervention. Assaults on citizens willing to issue endorsements for Ahmed al-Tantawi, preventing them from entering the Notary Offices to issue endorsements for his candidacy or delaying the processing of their requests by claiming technical faults and refusing alternative solutions for paper-based endorsement issuance. “The attack by supporters of the Future of the Nation Party against former parliamentarian Ahmed El-Tantawi during the stage of collecting endorsements in the city of Al-Sharqia”

Arresting several members of Ahmed al-Tantawi’s campaign and his family since he announced his candidacy and throughout the endorsement collection period in the first stage of the elections, continuing their detention up to the date of writing these lines. The number of detained from Tantawi’s campaign reached 128 members, all subjected to interrogation by the Supreme State Security Prosecution, with some charged with joining a terrorist group. Assaults on Ahmed al-Tantawi himself during his various visits to provinces and in front of Notary Offices without police intervention to prevent these attacks. The High Elections Committee prevented legal representatives and coordinators of Tantawi’s campaign from entering its headquarters to submit complaints along with audio-visual evidence before the Notary Offices indicating violations in the endorsement issuance process. The committee ignored Tantawi’s personal message regarding these violations and his desire to present them to the committee. The committee rejected Tantawi’s campaign’s complaints about violations and irregularities regarding the conduct of Notary Office employees and security personnel with campaign members and supporters, in the form of a statement, without conducting legal or administrative investigations. After Ahmed al-Tantawi withdrew from the presidential race due to his inability to collect the necessary endorsements to advance to the second stage of the elections, and in compliance with the legal and administrative conditions set for running in the elections, charges of offenses against honor were directed at Tantawi and his campaign, related to forgery and deception, as he called on his supporters to unofficially collect signatures to reflect the level of support for him and embarrass the regime regarding the extent of his popularity. The law penalizes the accusations against Tantawi with imprisonment and fines, and if confirmed, Tantawi would be deprived of participating in any future presidential elections due to losing the qualifications and honor required for candidacy and competition for this position. Regarding Gamila  Ismail, the only female candidate in the elections, her campaign faced the same physical and verbal assaults, which escalated to sexual harassment against some female members of her campaign, prompting her to withdraw early from the elections to ensure the safety of her campaign members. Ismail’s campaign documented these incidents in a lengthy statement, pointing to the lack of intervention by law enforcement in cases of physical assault against female campaign members.

The observations recorded by the media, campaign officials, and presidential candidates during the first and second stages of the electoral process reveal several electoral violations and abuses as follows:
Firstly, there were reports of intensive presence of the Future of the Nation Party, Homeland’s Protectors Party, and several civil associations affiliated with the authority, along with businessmen close to the legislative and executive branches, in the elections. Their aim was to direct the poorest citizens, state employees, factory workers, and company employees during both the first stage of the elections – the stage of collecting endorsements for candidates – and the second stage, which involved voting. Notably, this coordination was observed primarily in the governorates of Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Marsa Matruh, and Menoufia. The observed facts indicate pre-coordinated geographical cooperation between police departments, the Future of the Nation Party, and civil associations affiliated with the National Alliance (established by Sisi by law in September 2023) to prepare lists of eligible voters in each area.
Secondly, there was a significant presence of what are known as electoral contractors – intermediaries between the state and ordinary citizens – who benefited from political money inform allies managed without necessarily having political affiliations. A local independent newspaper quoted one of these electoral contractors outside the Future Preparatory School for Girls in the Matariya area, justifying electoral bribery in front of polling stations by saying, “We help the women and elderly men; we know their polling stations and send tuk-tuks to pick them up from their homes… Sisi is winning anyway, and we help the poor, and 200 pounds isn’t much.” He added that he disburses the amount to voters after ensuring they have phosphoric ink on their hands.
Thirdly, various observations were made regarding electoral bribes distributed to citizens based on the purpose and role required of them. Some mentioned receiving bribes in exchange for simply being present in large numbers outside polling stations to create crowding, aiming to create an impression of high voter turnout. In contrast, another type of bribery involved requesting voters actually to vote inside polling stations. Electoral bribes took various forms, with some voters receiving “lucky packets” that are exchanged for a monetary amount equivalent to 200 Egyptian pounds (approximately 6.67 US dollars) or equivalent goods. In some areas, the price per voter reached 300 pounds, which is disbursed to voters after confirming the presence of phosphoric ink on their hands. Reuters agency documented instances of distributing food items, specifically flour and rice, to citizens displaying phosphoric ink on their hands, as reported by the Deutsche Welle German channel.

“A video screenshot documenting instances of electoral bribery”

Fourthly, beneficiaries of the Takaful and Karama programs – social programs targeting poor families in Egypt – were threatened with canceling their monthly assistance card, which amounts to 650 Egyptian pounds (21.06 US dollars) if they did not attend the elections. Additionally, the presence of posters bearing the image and name of the then presidential candidate, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, inside the polling stations was observed, directing voters to vote for him.
Fifthly, civil society associations mobilized their members and beneficiaries of monthly assistance, sending them to polling stations via free transportation in exchange for monetary or in-kind compensation. One of these associations is affiliated with businessman Mohamed Aboul Enein, a current member of parliament and a leader in the dissolved National Party during the Mubarak regime, where the association transported beneficiaries of monthly assistance through hundreds of minibusses to polling stations in exchange for a “bag” of food items.
Sixthly, organized transportation and mobilization operations were carried out for government employees, educational administrations, health units, employees of electricity and sanitation companies, university students, and health unit workers, who were threatened and forced to participate in the elections. They were also compelled to photograph the phosphorescent ink on their hands, in addition to threats of salary deductions in case of non-participation.

“A picture of students gathering to vote in the elections”

Seventh: Businessmen loyal to the authorities mobilized their company workers and employees, with images emerging of employees from companies affiliated with the General Petroleum Corporation in official uniforms. These transportation operations were conducted through buses, minibusses, and tuk-tuks free of charge. Regarding the electoral bribes provided to these employees, one electoral contractor told a local newspaper that every entity rewards its employees in a manner that they see fit, stating, “Bribes are not paid to employees in cash, but each governmental entity takes care of its employees.” Reuters also documented the organized transportation of employees from three companies to polling stations through buses. Several local and international media outlets, such as Deutsche Welle, reported on the coercion of business owners forcing their employees to vote for El-Sisi.

“Gathering of petroleum company workers in front of the election committees in Port Said”

Eighth: Instances were documented where the Ministry of Interior forced citizens to vote by stopping them on the road, taking them to vote, stopping microbuses, and compelling passengers to vote. Many of the violations mentioned above, witnessed by the Ministry of Interior, contradict the requirements of maintaining security and order entrusted to the Ministry, according to Decision No. 14 of 2023. This decision saw a disregard for providing security and protection for candidates, their supporters, and representatives, some of whom were subject to attacks in plain view without intervention from security forces. Additionally, the Ministry of Interior overstepped its executive role towards participation in the mobilization of the current president.

Tenth: Election monitoring and control permits were issued very late from the start of the elections – September 25, 2023 – reflecting the lack of seriousness in granting permits to organizations, international and local institutions, and local and international media to monitor and follow up on elections. This contradicts globally accepted rules in election monitoring, which require these permits to be issued before the elections with sufficient time to ensure accurate monitoring, gather sufficient information, and reflect the nature of the electoral process naturally and without artificiality.

As for the violations announced by the election campaigns themselves, both the campaigns of the presidential candidates Abdussamad Yamama and Hazem Omar affirmed the absence of any violations or electoral misconduct on their part, with the electoral process proceeding fairly and efficiently. In contrast, the election campaign for the candidate Farid Zahran complained about the prohibition of all their representatives from attending the vote counting operations in all the subcommittees nationwide, in violation of the law and the decisions requiring the presence of representatives of the electoral candidate in the counting to monitor any violations and file timely appeals if necessary. Representatives of the campaign were also prohibited from receiving the results of the general committees, with the justification being that the powers of attorney issued by the Electoral Commission do not allow them to attend these procedures, despite allowing representatives of other candidates with the same powers of attorney to attend the same procedures. A statement issued by the campaign operations room listed several violations, such as:

  • Some employees of the executive authority and its agencies intervene in the voting process in a manner that violates equality and affects the will of the voter.
  • There is severe crowding at expatriate polling stations for two reasons: the shortage of polling stations and the ease of mobilizing workers and employees. Additionally, large numbers of supporters of some pro-authority parties gathered at many polling centers, leading to clashes and congestion with supporters of some candidates.
  • Some committees do not have Braille voting papers designed for visually impaired persons.
  • Instances of vote buying and material and non-material bribes by some individuals reflect a clear violation of the laws requiring legal accountability.
  • Recording some cases of collective voting.
  • Prohibiting candidate representatives from attending the counting process in all subcommittees nationwide or attending the delivery of results to the general committees under the pretext that the powers of attorney issued by the National Electoral Commission do not allow them to attend, despite allowing representatives of other candidates with the same powers of attorney, and in the same format and content, to attend the counting procedures and the delivery of results.


The 2023 presidential elections come at an extremely delicate political moment for both the state and the Egyptian street, with many hopes that they would be conducted in an atmosphere of competitiveness and freedom that might contribute to the country’s exit from the current impasse by including voices and programs new to the ruling establishment. However, the course of the electoral process and its resulting outcomes appeared predetermined and known in advance. Improving the technical and logistical performance of the electoral process and caring for this aspect of the process would push the country’s political situation by integrating many social sectors and restoring confidence in the institutional electoral process, indicating that there are real opportunities to express opinions. The report aimed to shed light on the most prominent stages of the electoral process, its complete management, as well as the violations observed.



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