The two African countries will hold their elections this year in the ambivalent climate of post-coup politics. Egypt will be holding its second and Zimbabwe its first.
Lasheen Ibrahim, chairperson of Egypt's National Electoral Commission(NEC), announced the electoral schedule on Monday setting 26-28 March as the day of the polls and 24-26 April for a possible runoff if no candidate garners 50+% of the vote.
The Egyptian poll will take place under a new electoral dispensation overseen by the relatively new electoral commission which replaces the three judicial commissions which previously ran parliamentary and referenda, presidential and local elections.
The body is largely comprised of senior court officials with Lasheen Ibrahim being the deputy head of the Court of Cessation. The board is made up of heads of other courts and statutory bodies such as the Administrative Prosecution Authority.
Egyptian president Fattah Al-Sisi has been in control since he led the coup which ousted Mohamed Morsi in 3 July 2013, the country's first democratically elected president. Al-Sisi went on to win the 2014 presidential elections, largely boycotted by the opposition including a ban on Morsi's Freedom & Justice Party, by a 97% margin.
Mohamed Morsi remains in jail serving 20 years for a conviction upheld on charges of sharing state secrets with Qatar. Image: Commons
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, who was 900 000 votes shy of beating Morsi in the 2012 election, has pulled out of the contest under mysterious circumstances following an arrest in the United Arab Emirates(UAE) after announcing his availability for candidacy in November.
Following his deportation to Egypt the BBC reports that he held a tv interview on reconsidering his decision to run for presidency. On Sunday he released a statement on Twitter giving reasons for pulling out.
"My absence of more than five years perhaps distanced me from being able to very closely follow what is going on in our nation in terms of developments and achievements despite the difficulty of the conditions,"
"I have seen that I will not be the ideal person to lead the state's affairs during the coming period. Thus I have decided not to run in the upcoming 2018 presidential elections," he said.
Below is the statement in Arabic.
The candidature of other activists who could pose a formidable challenge to Al-Sisi remains precarious. Khaled Ali, a lawyer and human rights activists, is attempting to appeal a three months suspended sentence which could disqualify him from running. Another possible opponent to Al-Sisi who hails from Egypt's military elite, was sentenced to six years by a military tribunal for political activism while still in active duty.
Zimbabwe's elections are likely to be held in September. The polls will give the Zimbabweans an opportunity to vote in an election where ousted long-serving leader Robert Mugabe will not be among the options on the ballot paper, for the first time since independence.
Mugabe's ouster is largely credited to army chief General Constantino Chiwenga, now deputy president of the country following Emmerson Mnangagwa's rise to the top job.
General Constantino Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, now Zimbabwe's deputy president. Image: Jekesai NJIKIZANA/AFP
There has been a mixed bag of political developments in the country. The first was the acquittal of activist Pastor Evan Mawarire on charges of subverting the government, a move largely seen as a positive sign by civil society.
On the other hand some civil society activists are starting to feel they are getting a raw deal for their opposition of the coup leaders and criticism of their involvement in the Gukurahundi massacre in the 80's. The issue is seen as divisive and coup leaders fear it will destabilise the new era.
On Sunday eight Mthwakazi Republic Party activists, an organisation branded as secessionist, were released without charge following arrests for demonstrating during a Mnangagwa speech at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo. The charge sheet shows the criticism they leveled at Mnangagwa, one of their placards saying "Sicela amalungelo abantu ahlonitshwe", meaning human rights should be respected.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has extended its Biometric Voter Registration(BVR) window to run for an additional month from 10 January to 8 February. In December the election's body had registered about 4,88-million voters. The state-owned Herald newspaper reported that the initial target of registering 7-million voters has been reviewed to 5-million at the end of the latest BVR phase.
In the interview with the paper the commission's acting chairperson, Emmanuel Magade, acknowledged the intervention of the courts in giving certain categories of people a chance to register for the upcoming poll.
"The commission is also cognisant of the fact that there was also another category of people, the so-called “aliens”, who were adversely affected before the intervention of the courts of law, who should be granted an equal opportunity to register during this mop-up exercise," said Magade.