Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Giving New Hope for Egypt or Repeating the Past?

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

This past Sunday Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was sworn into presidency after winning the democratic elections in Egypt. He promises to “correct the mistakes of the past” and move the country forward, settling the long three years of turmoil. However, it is still a little early to tell if the election of el-Sisi is giving new hope for Egypt or just repeating the past.

The big revolts in Egypt began around at the start of 2011, leading president Mubarak to step down. The military forces quickly seized power to establish a new interim government, paving the way towards the country’s first democratic elections. Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood took office, leading to power clashes between him and the military rulers. This caused confusion over who is really running the government.

As Morsi seized more power, protests intensified. The Egyptian populace feared the new president might be gaining too much autonomy while not bringing changes quickly enough. The gas and electricity shortages combined with the country’s growing debt did not help the situation either. Eventually, the military ousted Morsi, once again establishing an interim government. Whether this change was the will of the people or a military coup d’état remains disputed till this day.

Soon after, the military cracked on pro-Morsi supporters and Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, inciting further riots. The U.S. and E.U. disapproved of these actions, calling them excessive and cutting military aid substantially. Despite that, the court banned the Muslim Brotherhood, raising concerns about the legitimacy of its democracy.

General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi resigned from his military position, eventually running in the elections. He won a landslide victory of 96 percent, although the voter turnout was mere 47 percent. Foreign observers claimed the elections fell short of international standards. While el-Sisi optimistically claimed his election were the first truly “democratic transfer of power” in the country’s long history, it is not yet clear whether he is really giving new hope for Egypt, or perhaps heading to repeat the past for the second time.

There are several concerns expressed by outside observers. First, Morsi has been elected via a democratic process as well but his tenure was cut short as protesters displeased with the new president’s actions. What if el-Sisi also fails to live up to his promises? Nonetheless, these elections seem to carry less confusion and tension over the distribution of power that Morsi’s did, suggesting a potential smoother governance.

Secondly, there have been some doubts over how democratic the process really was. After all, part of the opposition such as the Muslim Brotherhood, has been marginalized and attacked by the interim government, minimizing their voice in the election. Egypt’s state-run news agency Ahram Online has further reported allegations that representative of el-Sisi’s sole opponent were attacked and detained prior to the voting. Finally, the 47 percent voter turnout also casts a shadow of doubt whether the outcome really is representative of the people’s will.

After over three years of turmoil, it is difficult to predict the country’s shaky future. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s smoother transition and promises are giving new hope for Egypt, but there is still some concern it could be repeating the past. The coming weeks will prove crucial to legitimizing the new democratic presidency and stabilizing the situation.

By Jakub Kasztalski

The New York Times
The Economist

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