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Al Sisi consolidates his pharaonic rule in Egypt

Al Sisi consolidates his pharaonic rule in Egypt

The presidential elections held yesterday, December 10-12, confirmed the uncontestable victory of Abdel Fattah al Sisi, as the facts show. The former field marshal, autocratic head of state since his coup in July 2013, is facing a new six-year term – thanks to his 2019 constitutional reform – with more power than ever before, the conviction that he is one of the great regional leaders and the risk that the conflicts in the Sudan, Libya and the Gaza Strip will ultimately also fully affect Egypt.

Despite the poor record of economic management – which has pushed two-thirds of Egypt’s 110 million population into poverty – Al Sisi won again with a large majority – although the percentage of entry was lower than in the last two presidential elections -: 89.6% of the Voices. Unexpectedly, voter turnout increased by 25 percentage points to 66.8% of the census compared to the 2018 presidential election. Local Egyptian media such as Al Ahram attributed the “unprecedented” increase in voter numbers to popular concerns about security risks posed by the regional situation. The opposition media sees nothing more than a maneuver by the regime – which pays voters to exercise their rights – to bolster its legitimacy.

“I would like to express my gratitude to all Egyptians who took part in the elections in these “delicate circumstances” in which the country is suffering from war on its borders, which poses a challenge to national security and the Palestinian cause,” Al Sisi said yesterday. , 69 years old, after the election results were announced. “Before you, I continue my commitment to building the ‘new republic’ in which we all work; a democratic state that protects all its citizens based on science and technology and preserves its identity and culture; and that it seeks a dignified life for them and has the military and political capabilities to maintain national security,” said the newly elected president, summing up his program for the next six-year term.

Despite its promises to transform Egypt into a democracy – Al Sisi vowed to leave in 2022 – the regime in its first decade in power has made no effort to maintain a clean accounting of the progress made after the revolution. 2011. The current president is responsible for the imprisonment of tens of thousands of people, including activists, journalists, artists and lawyers, for political reasons.

But in May – and after a year of preparation – Al Sisi launched the “National Dialogue” initiative, a proposal that on paper was open to all political and trade union forces and had the theoretical aim of improving Egyptian democracy. Last October, several international human rights organizations condemned “the massive and systematic use of torture by the Egyptian authorities.”

But Al Sisi’s big challenge for the new six-year term is to improve Egypt’s macro- and microeconomic situation. As a result of the pandemic and war in Ukraine, and despite implementing a series of reforms welcomed by international organizations, Egypt’s inflation is at 40% and its currency, the pound, has been half its value since March last year lost while the national debt tripled.

In the domestic political sphere, it is to its credit that it sought stability after years of turmoil that began with the Tahrir Revolution – the epicenter of the Arab Spring -, the overthrow of the Mubarak dictatorship and the adoption of a new constitution and the holding of the first free elections and the triumph and government of the Muslim Brotherhood – Mohamed Morsi was the first democratically elected president in Egypt’s history – after the June 2012 elections. Besides stability, Al Sisi’s other flag was the defense of the country’s religious minorities; a protection recognized by the leaders of the Coptic Christian communities – who make up 10% of the population – after their election victory.

True to the lineage of the dictators who have held power in Egypt in recent decades, Al-Sisi also wants to go down in history for carrying out a series of projects marked by excess. The focus is on the construction of the new administrative capital around Cairo, which will cost 58 billion US dollars; The former field marshal wants to initiate the re-establishment of the Republic of Egypt. In addition, in 2015, Sisi completed the expansion of the Suez Canal, a work that cost $8 billion.

On the external front, the coming months will undoubtedly be dominated by the situation in neighboring Gaza, where Israel – with which Cairo signed peace in 1979 – and Hamas have been at loggerheads since October 7 last year. Egypt, which has a border and land crossing with the Gaza Strip in the Sinai Peninsula, has so far refused to open its territory to the Gaza Strip population. Al Sisi knows what happened to the Palestinian refugees in Syria, Jordan or Lebanon: there was never a return movement.

Although his rise to the defense ministry during Morsi’s presidency cannot be explained without personal connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Sisi is now a declared enemy of the movement founded by Hassan al-Banna – which he described as terrorists – and therefore fears the incursion of Hamas fighters to his country – especially in a porous and difficult area like Sinai. His sui generis defense of the Palestinian cause and resistance to Israeli pressure are already giving him a boost in popularity that will keep him in power once the opposition is swept away. The favorite dictator of the West, but also of Russia and the Sunni monarchies in the Gulf – an important player on the current chessboard in the Middle East – already has the year 2034 in his sights.

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