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Egyptians will go to the polls for the first round of Presidential Elections on the 26th and 27th May 2014 to elect a new President for a four year term.The country has been going through political turmoil ever since the removal of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011 following the Arab Spring Revolution. It is important to note that through the events that brought about the Arab Spring Revolution to the ouster of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, Egyptians have constantly struggled to build a new democratic state[1]. They are hoping that these elections help turn a new page in bringing about political reforms and inclusion.

In the last elections in 2012 that brought the now deposed Mohammed Morsi to power, there were 13 candidates vying for the presidency. However, in the current election, perhaps telling of the current political climate, there are only two candidates; one being the powerful former army chief and Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi who overthrew Mohamed Morsi last summer; the country’s first freely elected president and Hamdeen Sabahi, a leftist politician who came third in the 2012 elections[2].

Sisi, the former army chief and defence minister is widely considered to be the front-runner and very likely to win the presidency due to his popularity, as well as the lack of any serious rivals[3]. In fact, to endorse his candidature, he submitted 188,930 signatures, which is nearly eight times the required 25,000 that needs a candidate to run for office[4]. His rival Sabahi is said to have submitted 31,555 signatures.[5] With such a popular wave of support, it is almost a certainty that Sisi will become the next president of Egypt.

Women’s Political Participation

Historically, there has always been limited female representation in Egyptian politics[6]. For decades, women in Egypt have been denied their political rights despite being granted the right to suffrage[7].

In 2009, Mubarak issued an order setting a minimum of 64 out of the 518 parliament’s seats for women but this did not come to fruition as the percentage of women MPs decreased from 12% during his era to only 2% during Morsi’s presidency[8]. This example is starkly illustrated by the example of Miriam Milad, the first Christian Egyptian woman to found a political party and yet has never won any election. The 2011 Arab Spring revolution came with a lot of hope that women could actively participate in politics but there has been a lot of disappointment, with female participation hitting an all low of 2% during Morsi’s and the Muslim Brotherhood Presidency.

New efforts are now under way to engage more women in political life. In this respect, the Egyptian Constituent Assembly recently announced that 25 percent of municipal seats will be reserved for women[9]. This move is a positive step toward improving the low political participation of women in the aftermath of Egypt’s Spring revolution in February 2011.

Currently, Egypt has three women as cabinet ministers: Minister of Manpower and Immigration Aisha Abdel-Hady Abdel-Ghany, Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Abul Naga and Minister of State for Family and Population Mosheera Mahmoud Khattab (as of Cabinet 2009)[10]. This is the highest number of women ministers the country has seen in years.

Conclusion

Egypt has still a long way to go in terms of bringing women at the political table as they are still stuck in a political culture that believes that only men should run politics. Even when in office, women face discrimination and countless barriers, which prevent them from influencing decisions. That said, many women participated in the Arab spring revolution and in the ouster of Mubarak and as such want to see change, and they are fighting to effect that change. The Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood had taken the country backwards in terms of women political representation and leadership, but hopefully now with the changes in the laws reserving seats for women in the Local councils, though unfortunately not in Parliament, [11]Egyptian women can begin to realize their aspirations.

 



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