Egypt saw its 4th presidential poll action earlier in March. As predicted, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi won a second presidential term with more than 97% of votes in his favour even though the turnout was just 41%. International and Egyptian human rights groups have called the election a ‘farce’ amid crackdown on dissent and after eliminating any real political opposition (5 opposition candidates were barred from running).
Women’s Political Participation
Egypt’s 2014 constitution formed after the Arab Spring of 2011 guarantees a positive legislation in favour of women’s rights; partially an outcome of women at the forefront of the revolution demanding democratic, political, social and economic reforms. Article 11 states that the state shall ensure the achievement of equality between women and men in all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.89 parliamentary seats to female MPs have been granted and 25% of local seats allocated to women in municipal elections as per law. This certainly has boosted a movement for women’s political empowerment in some ways.
Despite that, one notices marked fluctuations in women’s participation between 2010, 2012, 2015, 2018 elections. In 2010, women in Egyptheld 13% of seats in parliament, which regressed to merely 2% in 2012, and again jumping to 15% that is 89 female MPs elected in 2015 in accordance with the electoral law (highest female representation in history).
Introductions of quotas (reserving 64 seats for women in addition to its 454-member parliament, increasing it to 518, which means women were allocated 12% of the seats) have also provided a big push in trying to redress the gender imbalance in political representation. However, their transformative impact in terms of meaningful participation and decision-making have been questioned, especially given the highly hierarchical and authoritarian nature of the government on one hand, as well as the socio-economic context of those elected. MarizTadros (2010) noted ‘that the majority of women elected or appointed are highly educated, from the white-collar professional background, and come from the upper class and are socially and/or politically very well connected.’
As far as local elections are concerned, an initiative called “The Councils Are Ours” has been grooming potential candidates when the elections are finally held for the first time in eight years.
Having said that, in the larger scheme of women’s rights and addressing the challenges to gender equality, Egypt has come afar. In August 2016, Egypt’s parliament passed a bill raising the designation of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) from a misdemeanour to a felony. In January 2017, an Egyptian legislative parliamentary committee approved a draft bill toughening penalties on sexual harassment - an endemic problem in Egypt - including jail terms of one year instead of the previous six months. These recent advances have been crucial. In January 2018, Sisi approved amendments to the inheritance law imposing protecting women’s rights to their inheritances. However, women continue to face discrimination under Egypt’s personal status law on equal access to divorce, child custody. Furthermore, Egypt remains one of the three countries that has not signed the Maputo Protocol, which has been hailed as one of the most progressive women’s human rights instruments, providing legal framework, addressing inter alia development, violence against women, sexual and reproductive health rights, political participation, sustainable environments and climate change amongst others.
Despite the relative progress made, access to equal representation in politics remains a huge challenge. This brings us to the question of addressing gender inequalities and how to enhance pathways that will ensure not only increased presence in Parliaments but also the quality of leadership.
 Mariz Tadros (2010) ‘Introduction: Quotas – Add Women and Stir?’ in IDS Bulletin