Egypt’s electoral commission said on Wednesday it would prosecute roughly 54 million people for not voting in a parliament election this month, Abu Dhabi’s the National reported on Thursday.
Just 14 percent of Egypt’s 63 million eligible voters participated in the election for Egypt’s upper house of parliament on August 11 and 12. A 300-seat chamber known formally as the Council of Senators, the upper house of parliament, serves “a purely consultative mandate, vetting draft legislation sent by the president or the legislature,” according to the report.
“One hundred of the chamber’s 300 seats were won by a ‘closed,’ pro-government list that ran unopposed” in the mid-August elections, according to the newspaper. “Another 100 [seats] will shortly be appointed by [Egyptian] President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, while the other third were won by independent candidates who are not critical of the government.”
Voter apathy at the seemingly predetermined election results, combined with a fear of exposure to the Chinese coronavirus, contributed to the low voter turnout. Disappointed with the lack of participation, the Egyptian government has decided to prosecute non-voters.
“The Egyptian state has provided sufficient resources and made the necessary preparations for voters to exercise their political right,” the state election commission said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The National Electoral Commission has taken all the preventive measures to protect all stakeholders in the election process, as well as voters, from the coronavirus. It has warned time and again that voters must cast their ballots, but some failed to fulfill their national role and duty to participate,” the statement read.
“That led the board of the electoral commission to refer all those who failed to vote to the prosecutors to take the necessary steps against them,” the government body said.
Under a rarely implemented law, people who avoid voting in a state election in Egypt without a valid reason, as determined by the government, must pay a fine. Although prosecuting and collecting fines from 54 million people seems “virtually impossible,” the Egyptian government “seems determined to make a statement” according to the National. Theoretically, the Egyptian government could collect up to 2.75 billion Egyptian pounds ($173.3 million) should it decide to enforce the non-voter law.
The Egyptian parliament’s upper chamber was eliminated in 2014 when Egypt voted for a new constitution in another election criticized for alleged ballot-stuffing, “But amendments adopted in a nationwide referendum last year included its reintroduction,” according to the report.