The men waiting in line at the polling station at the Mohammad Farid School in central Cairo had two things in common: they were all planning to vote for President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and nearly all of them were middle-aged or older.

One man said he was 90 years old and waved his walking stick jubilantly after casting his ballot for the president. “I would vote for Sisi even if I had to get out of my death bed to do it,” he said.  

But it was striking how few young faces there were, especially in a country where more than half the population is under the age of 25. A dearth of young voters has been noted at polling stations across Egypt and even official state media has reported on the trend. 

Millions of young Egyptians appear to be shunning an election that is guaranteed to end in victory for Mr Sisi, choosing not to vote rather take part in a process where they have no real choice. 

Click Here: Cardiff Blues Store

Among them is Ahmed, a 27-year-old from Cairo. He voted in the two elections that followed the 2011 revolution which toppled the Mubarak regime but plans to stay home this year. 

“I used to vote after the Revolution of January 25 but now why would I? We are back to the same dictatorship. We only have one option: it’s either Sisi or this marionette guy,” he said, referring to Moussa Mostafa Moussa, Mr Sisi’s token challenger. 

An Egyptian man casts his ballot for President Sisi. The incumbent is expected to win around 97 per cent of the vote.Credit:

Mohammed, a 20-year-old student, said he had hoped for more from the first election in which he was old enough to vote. “I thought that my first voting experience would be exciting and that my vote would actually help, but since it won’t it’s just disappointing.” 

Opposition leaders had called for a boycott of the election and Egyptian dissidents have urged voters to stay away from the polls using the hashtag “Don’t Go Down”. The young people interviewed by The Telegraph said they were acting from their own personal disillusionment, rather than taking part in an organised campaign.

Young people vote at a lower rate than their elders in elections across the world, including in the UK. But the divide may be especially deep in Egypt because of the country’s chaotic politics since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. 

An Egyptian born in 1960 lived the first 51 years of their life under the authoritarian stability of military dictatorship, similar to the regime that Mr Sisi has consolidated today. An Egyptian born in 1990 would have come of age during the 2011 revolution, the 2012 election of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the 2013 coup that ousted them. 

An Egyptian woman dances in the street in Cairo on the second day of votingCredit:

State television has broadcast round-the-clock exhortations for people to vote, relying on an old Egyptian political formula of presenting voting as a way of showing support for the military as it battles against jihadists in the Sinai desert. Martial music plays over the top of the news anchors’ speeches.   

“Young people look at this over the top propaganda and are often unconvinced by it. It doesn’t work on them the same way it does with their parents or grandparents,” said Timothy Kaldas, non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. 

“Younger people have access to more information than the older generation and are able to sift through it more effectively.”

One pro-regime media outlet published a photograph of five stylish young women holding up their ink-stained thumbs as a sign that they had voted. 

The picture was presented as having been taken this week. It in fact from elections in 2011 and one of the women in the photograph poured scorn on its publication in a Facebook post.  "To complete the show of democracy, they took our photo from 2011 and posted it as it was today," she wrote.

Not all young people are staying away from the election. At a polling station at the al-Wehda al-Arabia school, 29-year-old Reham Magdy led a group of young women cheering Mr Sisi’s name and wearing white t-shirts bearing his face. 

“The election is a party for us,” she shouted over the music blaring from nearby speakers. “We love Sisi and he made a lot of achievements for the country.”

Ms Magdy said she was unconcerned about the president changing the constitution to allow himself more than two terms in office. She said that even if Mr Sisi held power for many decades, she believed he would respect the will of the Egyptian public. “It’s up to the people. We are not silent anymore, we have learned to how to speak.”  

Ahmed, a 19-year-old student, sent a wary text message when asked about the election. “The Arab world isn’t really ready for democracy,” he wrote. “We have this instinctive fear of speaking. A fear that I am having right now while talking to you.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *