The growing phenomenon of invalid votes in the Egyptian elections, what is the reason?

During the past years, the phenomenon of invalid votes in the ballot boxes increased during the holding of the presidential and parliamentary elections, prompting many specialists to research the phenomenon’s causes.

The elections and referendums that took place since the military coup in 2013 witnessed a great reluctance of voters to cast their votes. Besides this boycott, the phenomenon of voters intentionally canceling their votes emerged. During the current year 2020, Egypt witnessed parliamentary elections in several stages to select the Senate and the House of Representatives, and it was noticeable that the widespread boycott and the invalid votes.

The Senate and the House of Representatives’ elections took place in four stages between August and December of this year, according to the list and individual system, and the ballot papers on the list received the largest number of invalid votes. Although the selection paper for the list contained only two lists in most districts, one of which was chosen, a large number of votes were invalid, which was seen by observers as a rejection of the entire electoral process.

Politicians and citizens saw that the growth of the phenomenon of invalid votes by the millions came as an expression of protest and muffled anger against the Nation’s Future Party (NFP), supported by the security and intelligence services, and controlled the list system.

According to the National Elections Commission’s official statistics, there are 3 million invalid electoral votes in the lists and individual systems in the first phase of the House of Representatives elections. The first phase reached 28.06%, with a total attendance of about 9 million voters, and in the second phase, the number of invalid votes reached one and a half million votes from about 9 million voters.

In the Senate elections that preceded the House of Representatives, the number of voters reached about 9 million, with a participation rate of about 14% of the total number of voters of about 63 million. The number of invalid votes reached about one million 400 thousand votes, by more than 15% of the total participants.

False voices growing

The high rates of invalid votes began to appear strongly since the presidential elections in 2014 and 2018, which saw Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi winning against Hamdeen Sabahi the first time and Musa Mustafa in the second. It was ironic and surprising at the time that the invalid votes occupied the second place in the results of the presidential elections, as the false vote surpassed the votes obtained by Hamdeen Sabahi and Musa Mustafa.

In the 2014 presidential elections, a million and 40,608 invalid votes were recorded, outweighing the rival candidate’s votes, Hamdeen Sabahi, who received only 757,511 votes. In the 2018 elections, candidate Musa Mustafa Musa won third place with 2.7% of the votes, while the invalid votes won 7.2% of the vote.

Sweeping false votes. Opponents saw a punitive vote by voters against elections run by the security and intelligence services in an atmosphere of repression and the imposition of a state of emergency. And they saw that the phenomenon of high false votes is considered as a protest by the voters against every young deviation in the voting operations, especially in light of the spread of electoral bribes and the absence of real competition.

The National Center for Parliamentary Consultation had issued a statement after the end of the first phase of the parliamentary elections, confirming that the voiding had been deliberate. He explained that the great increase in null votes is a phenomenon that has a very dangerous significance, especially since the invalid votes in the list system are higher than the invalid votes in singles, with a total of 764 thousand votes. The center added in its report that this punitive vote means that the voter is not convinced of the candidate and is not interested in the electoral process as a whole, in addition to fear of repeating the experience of the National Party in the 2010 elections.

Protest messages

In the same context, former parliamentarian Ezz El-Din Al-Koumi said in press statements that there is a team of voters forced to vote, as they were threatened with imprisonment or a fine if they boycotted the elections. The former MP believed that this voter, who was forced to go to the elections without being convinced of them, punished the system by nullifying his vote in the ballot boxes. And he considered that the low turnout, together with invalid votes, blackening of cards, and electoral bribery, are phenomena that indicate the corruption of the entire electoral process. He added that these phenomena open a big door to question the validity of the results of these elections, in addition to being a message of popular rejection implicit in the current regime.

For his part, Mostafa Khoudary, head of the Egyptian Center for Media and Public Opinion Studies, said that the authority does not care about the size of the correct or invalid votes as much as it seeks to approve everyone in the elections. He explained in press statements that the volume of actual participation, according to estimates by the Egyptian Center for Media and Public Opinion Studies, did not exceed 4 million participants in all stages of the electoral process.