March 9, 2018
When I lived in Egypt more than 15 years ago, I knew a gentleman who regularly ran in local elections. He never put any work into a campaign or hoped to win office, but he ran, nonetheless, and thus gave his opponent the appearance of having real competition.
Today Egypt is preparing for a presidential election that will—like nearly all those before it—follow this same model. During the elections that will take place from March 26–28, Egyptians will have the opportunity to choose between incumbent President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Moussa Mostafa Moussa, the chairman of the Al-Ghad party who was, until the day he announced his candidacy (after every other intended candidate had withdrawn or, in the least subtle case, been arrested), actively campaigning for Sisi. The outcome, of course, is all but guaranteed.
The veneer of democracy in Egypt has always been thin, but since the rise of Sisi, only the most half-hearted effort has been made to keep up the façade.
Shortly after the mother’s arrest, Ezzat Ghoneim, the prominent human rights lawyer who was handling her case—as well as Wadnan’s—went missing as well, turning up on March 4 to be interrogated in front of the State Security Prosecution. That was a day after prosecutors requested the death penalty in a mass political trial that includes the photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as “Shawkan,” who was detained in 2013 while covering the massacre in Raba’a Square and who could now be executed for his work as a journalist.