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Another dictatorship, another bogus election. In mid-March, it was Vladimir Putin rigging the Russian vote in order to secure his re-election as president. Last week it was the turn of Egypt, where President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was re-elected with 97 per cent of the vote.

Egypt’s election was an unfunny parody of democracy. Every serious challenger to Mr. al-Sisi was either forced out of the running or put in prison.

One opponent, an army officer, was arrested when he announced his intention to run in the election and then jailed for six years for expressing a political opinion.

Another, Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat, the nephew of assassinated Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, pulled out of the race to protect his campaign workers from violence and harassment in what he knew would be a lost cause.

The leading opponent to Mr. al-Sisi, former Egyptian prime minister Ahmed Shafik, dropped out of the race in January after the Egyptian government threatened to open a corruption investigation into him if he didn’t withdraw, according to his lawyer.

In the end, Mr. al-Sisi’s single opponent was a last-minute, unknown candidate who also happened to be an ardent supporter of the Egyptian president.

The similarities to the recent Russian election are obvious. Mr. Putin also made sure no serious candidates challenged him. The lone threat, Alexei Navalny, was barred from running because he was once convicted on embezzlement charges that are widely considered to have been fabricated by the state.

The sole concern of Mr. al-Sisi and Mr. Putin was avoiding a low turnout. Russians and Egyptians were offered money and prizes if they voted – a blatant effort to add a veneer of respectability to a predetermined outcome.

It’s a thin veneer. Mr. Putin, Mr. al-Sisi and strongmen like them crave the legitimacy that falls to the leader who lets democracy run its course uncorrupted, but they lack the courage or support to let that happen.

Elections like theirs are a sham. They may hold power, but they will never know democratic legitimacy.

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