An Egyptian affairs specialist says if as expected, military chief Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi announces his candidacy for president, there is little doubt about his prospects for victory. Michelle Dunne is senior associate in the Middle East Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“All of the other possible candidates on the nationalist political spectrum have eliminated themselves. So if General al-Sisi runs, he will be elected,” she says.
Dunne says if elected, al-Sisi will face a number of issues – foremost of which is the country’s economy.
“I think Field Marshall al-Sisi recognizes that Egypt faces an enormous economic challenge,” she says. “We’ve seen reports already he’s likely to announce some economic mega-project when he announces his candidacy to give Egyptians hope that the economy will improve.”
The Carnegie scholar says the other pressing issue that will confront al-Sisi is security.
“Egypt continues to have a very bad security situation,” she notes. “Nearly daily terrorist attacks, demonstrations going on at least weekly, and some very large-scale human rights abuses – further fueling radicalization.”
Dunne cautions failure to effectively address these issues will also impact the economy.
“Unless he can reverse that, unless he gets the security situation under control, it’s going to be almost impossible for him to get the economy moving in a positive direction,” she says.
Field Marshall al-Sisi’s entire career has been in the military. So if elected, how would he likely fare as president? Dunne says that remains an open question.
“One has to ask, whether someone who has spent his entire adult life in the military – very much has a military view on things -- has the answers to Egypt’s problems,” she says. “Also he is the person who has overseen a massive crackdown since Morsi was removed. So there is no indication so far that he has any orientation towards political inclusion or reconciliation.”
Dunne says if elected president, al-Sisi will enjoy a period of support and goodwill – despite his lack of political experience. But she cautions that will be finite.
“Initially, the state will mobilize behind him and protect him, which they didn’t try to do at all during President Morsi’s time. But we’ll see how long the honeymoon will last.”
Egypt’s Presidential Supreme Electoral Commission has yet to announce a specific date, but presidential elections are expected to be held in the next few weeks.