News / Middle East

Egypt's Sissi Lowers Expectations for Change

 An Egyptian man on horse cart rides past a huge banner for Egypt's former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in downtown Cairo, May 6, 2014.
An Egyptian man on horse cart rides past a huge banner for Egypt's former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in downtown Cairo, May 6, 2014.
Egyptians should not expect instant democracy or rapid economic reforms, but they should pull together for shared sacrifice. That is the sober message being delivered by Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, the general who toppled Egypt's first freely-elected leader last year and now is poised to be elected president later this month.

The former army chief stepped squarely into the public eye this week with a lengthy televised interview and other public remarks. His words seem carefully calibrated to appeal to Egyptians' hunger for stability and to draw a line under the era of rapid transformation since the 2011 revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

It is wrong to expect Egypt to turn into a Western-style democracy overnight, he said on his campaign site on Facebook.

“We always turn to the image of stable democracies in states that preceded us and compare them with Egypt,” said Sissi. “Applying the models of Western democracies in the case of Egypt does an injustice to Egyptians. Egyptian society still faces time before it enjoys true democracy as it should be.”

Sissi's interviews have revealed the gruff personality that his supporters say shows that he is a decisive man of action, and his opponents say are signs of a new autocrat in waiting.

In an interview with two Egyptian television channels -- CBC and ONTV -- Sissi avoided getting into specifics about policy. He handled questions on sensitive topics by saying little, and told off the pro-army anchors when they interrupted him.

He also hinted at a cautious approach to economic reforms, saying the state should not move too quickly to dismantle the subsidies for fuel and food that Western backers say are unsustainable and have ruined public finances.

“The subsidies can't be removed suddenly. People will not tolerate that,” said Sisi.

Many of his remarks stressed the need for a national effort. He urged every Egyptian to sacrifice, suggesting he had no ready cures for poverty, a fast-growing Islamist insurgency or unemployment.

“Sissi's rhetoric is much more about the need for hard work. He's not quite Churchillian, but he certainly is not pandering on a material level,” said Nathan Brown, an expert on Egypt based at George Washington University in the United States,

“Whether that will make any difference remains to be seen. But it is an indication that he wants to keep expectations low,” said Brown.

Creating stability

Sissi is expected to easily win the May 26-27 presidential election. The only other candidate is leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came in third in the 2012 election won by Morsi.

Egyptians are mostly concerned with stability in a country beset by protests and political violence since Mubarak's fall.

Many of them see Sissi as the answer, even though men from the military who have ruled Egypt since 1952 were accused of mismanaging the nation.

His opponents fear Sisi will become yet another authoritarian leader who will preserve the interests of the military and the Mubarak-era establishment.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which had propelled Morsi to power at the ballot box, accuses Sissi of staging a coup against a legitimately chosen president and trampling on human rights.

Sissi said he acted according to the will of Egyptians, who staged mass protests against Morsi's rule.

He acknowledged abuses have been committed during one of the toughest security crackdowns in Egypt's modern history.

“We must understand that there cannot be a security situation with this depth and confusion that we are seeing, without some violations,” he said. “There is law and procedures have been taken so that this does not happen again.”

He was very clear, however, that he would press on with his campaign to destroy the Brotherhood, which won every election since Mubarak's ouster, but now has been driven underground after security forces killed hundreds of its members and jailed thousands of others.

Asked whether the Brotherhood would cease to exist during his presidency, Sissi answered: “Yes. That's right.”

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
May 09, 2014 1:51 PM
Whatever the change, if Sissi is able to permanently silence Muslim Brotherhood and all voices of islamist extremism in the country, he has chatted the right course for democracy not only in Egypt but also for the whole of the Arab world and Africa.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs