News / Middle East

Egypt's Sissi Appears Virtually Unchallenged in Presidency Bid

Egypt's Sissi Announces Presidential Runi
Elizabeth Arrott
March 26, 2014 8:21 PM
Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi resigns from the military to launch run for president against few viable opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.
Elizabeth Arrott
Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has resigned from the military and announced he will run for president. With few viable opponents to challenge the field marshal, his official status as the nation's leader seems all but assured.

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sissi appears poised to become Egypt's next president, following in the steps of Mohamed Morsi, the man he helped overthrow.

Sissi has the explicit backing of Egypt's all-powerful military. Commanders say “the people” have ordered him to run. And, indeed, the throngs that come out on the streets to support him insist he is the country's sole savior.  

Sissi campaigner and childhood friend Aly Hossan said, “There's no substitute ... at this moment. Anyone else would take us back to square one.”

That's exactly where his critics say Sissi will take them, however, returning the country to the kind of leadership Egyptians overthrew in 2011.

Activist and revolutionary socialist Tarek Shalaby said, “This goes against all that we stood for: against the militarization of the state, against having a brutal dictator from the army rule with an iron fist.”

Yet, when Morsi chose him to be his defense minister and chief of the armed forces in 2012, many saw Sissi as representing a break from the older generation of the military officers who had worked so closely with the old regime. His reputation as a devout Muslim made his loyalties unclear.

The next year, any doubt vanished. Mass protests broke out against Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president who in his one year in office alienated wide swathes of the populace with actions perceived as autocratic and too focused on Islamist policies.

Sissi moved swiftly, first against Morsi, then against Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood base.

While the crackdown further fueled Sissi's support base, some who initially supported Morsi's ouster were appalled. Critics, including secular activists and academics, found themselves facing arrest. Some went into exile abroad.

Any but overtly pro-government journalists became suspect, in particular those from Al-Jazeera. Twenty people with the Qatar-based network have been charged with links to terrorism and damaging the country's international reputation - a move rights advocates say has itself damaged the country's reputation.

But with Al Jazeera, and Qatar, popularly seen as supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, the government's actions also have added to Sissi's appeal. So, too, has the growing threat of a jihadist insurgency, which has claimed responsibility for deadly bombings in Cairo and elsewhere.

Some of his supporters compare Sissi to his childhood hero, President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who helped overthrow Egypt's monarchy. Some find him, like Nasser, charming.

Constitutional lawyer and scholar Ahmed Kamal Abu el Magd said, “He is a nice guy. He is tender and he is compassionate and he has a good sense of humor. And he has experience with the secret agents of the country. But how this is going to work out, I don't know.”

There also is another risk. Egyptian discontent is broad, fueled by chronic poverty, unemployment and a breakdown of social services. Even a massive infusion of Gulf Arab money after Morsi's fall has done little to improve daily life.

Cairo resident Mamoud al-Bottar said people love Sissi now, but he predicted that after six months of a Sissi presidency, “they will curse him,” adding, “because we are in a state that has fallen apart.”

Reviving Egypt's familiar dynamic of repression in the name of security has its own perils. Failing to address the basic concerns of protest-ready Egyptians may prove even riskier.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs