Egypt’s strongman president faces election amid financial droop and widespread anger over inaction on Gaza

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The bitter battle between Israel and Hamas couldn’t have come at a worse time for Egypt. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the previous navy strongman who seized energy in 2013 amid the turbulent fallout of the Arab Spring, faces a common election in December.

Beset by financial woes and with a political and humanitarian disaster unfolding on his nation’s border, it will likely be an election fraught with dangers.

Sisi successfully took energy in July 2013, after a long time of navy dictatorship beneath Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak’s 30-year reign, which led to April 2011 in the course of the Arab Spring, was adopted by a short and turbulent interregnum during which a Muslim Brotherhood-backed authorities led by educational Mohamed Morsi struggled to take care of order.

In July 2013, Sisi eliminated Morsi from energy and gained 96% of the vote the next 12 months in an election which drew widespread worldwide criticism. He has probably not confronted important political opposition since, however this could’t disguise his deep unpopularity with many Egyptians.

At current, Sisi presides over what most specialists would say is a contender for the area’s worst performing financial system. Annual inflation hit a historic excessive of 38% in September and the youth unemployment fee is at present working at 17%.

Compounding this financial disaster have been a number of rounds of foreign money devaluation and an incoming mandated Worldwide Financial Fund bailout. A harsh IMF-imposed austerity programme will push struggling Egyptians to a degree of destitution not seen because the Egyptian bread riots of 1977.

It’s towards this unstable background that Sisi must battle for reelection. You can be excused for assuming it could be a mere box-ticking train, as Sisi has dominated Egypt with an iron fist since ousting the Muslim Brotherhood in July 2013’s brutal coup.

No election has been free and truthful since then and Egypt’s unbiased media has been all however crushed within the interceding years. Opposition events have both been suppressed or co-opted, whereas civil society – beforehand a vigorous political sphere – now appears again at Mubarak’s dictatorship with a level of nostalgia.

Initially – and for the primary time since Sisi took energy – it regarded as if he would face a reputable opposition. Former MP Ahmed Tantawi, a candidate for the Civil Democratic Motion, made a reputation for himself as an MP by overtly criticising Sisi in parliament and never participating within the Nationwide Dialogue.

This was a Sisi-sponsored initiative which was launched in Could 2023. It was offered by the federal government as an inclusive discussion board for addressing Egypt’s financial and political challenges – however has been dismissed by critics as merely a automobile for Sisi’s personal agenda.

Tantawi’s marketing campaign gained momentum with assist from distinguished left-wingers, secularists and even some Muslim Brotherhood leaders in exile, attracted by Tantawi’s stance on releasing political prisoners. There are at present an estimated 40,000 political prisoners in Egypt’s jails, a lot of them Muslim Brotherhood members.

However Tantawi withdrew his candidacy on October 13, saying that pro-government “thugs” have been stopping individuals from registering their assist for his candidacy.

If his abortive marketing campaign wasn’t a direct menace to Sisi, Tantawi’s recognition represents a structural shift in Egyptian politics. Sisi has dealt so badly with Egypt’s financial issues lately it has left him weak.

And his behavior of incautious statements hasn’t helped – at one level when questioned in regards to the hovering value of okra, an Egyptian staple, he prompt they emulate the followers of the prophet Muhammad and “eat leaves”.

Warfare on the doorstep

With the warfare in Gaza on Sisi’s doorstep, the regime faces a troublesome balancing act. Israel is bent on securing its border irrespective of the results for Egypt. But the fallout for Sisi at dwelling may antagonise home vulnerabilities. The picture of hundreds of Gazans dying whereas Egypt’s Rafah border stays closed could possibly be very dangerous for the regime.

Crowds protest in support of Palestinians in Cairo, October 2023.
Public anger: many Egyptians consider that Sisi is attempting to take advantage of occasions in Gaza for political acquire.
EPA-EFE/Mohamed Hossam

Sisi must be cautious, given his shut relationship with the Israeli authorities. Egypt has been get together to the 16-year-long Israeli blockade of Gaza, imposing tight controls on the border crossing at Rafah.

However with an election looming he now must appease an Egyptian public who’re way more sympathetic to the Gazan’s plight than the Israelis. He has attracted widespread criticism from opponents who say his administration has been organising staged protests to piggyback on public sympathy for Palestinians because the dying toll from Israel’s warfare on the Gaza Strip rises.

However the true threat to his administration lies at dwelling with the ever-present menace of Egypt’s well-established Islamist actions. It was a Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored widespread rebellion at Tahrir Sq. that toppled Mubarak and handed authorities to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2011.

That historical past now acts as a severe warning for Egypt’s navy to by no means be complacent in regards to the potential menace of Islamist actions. Sisi’s regime has completed its utmost to destroy the Brotherhood.

Within the ten years since his safety forces massacred greater than 900 individuals whereas violently breaking apart mass anti-government sit-ins in Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares in August 2013, tens of hundreds have been topic to arbitrary detention with out trial or have been sentenced in navy courts to prolonged jail phrases for dissent.

Maybe probably the most shameful exhibition of corrupt use of energy was his regime’s therapy of Morsi. The previous president died after collapsing contained in the defendants “cage” in a Cairo courtroom following six years in solitary confinement.

It’s one factor for an incumbent to take care of the failings of a collapsing financial system. It’s fairly one other to accommodate an aggrieved public watching a human rights bloodbath proper on its border. If the Sisi regime continues to let this occur on its watch, the opposition could have extra ammunition than they’ve had for years.


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