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No alternative to the hard hand of Al Sisi in the face of the terrorist threat

Egypt's president hopes to be re-elected in 2018 despite economic crisis and political repression

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No alternative to the hard hand of Al Sisi in the face of the terrorist threat

Egypt has suffered bloodiest attack of its modern history in midst of a serious economic situation and under authoritarian rule. Six years after Tahrir Revolution, in middle of Arab Spring, and four of military coup that overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, his citizens try to survive a record inflation of 33%. Despite growing heavy-handed policy imposed by current president, Abdelfatá Al Sisi, Egyptians lack an effective alternative to re-election of former army marshal in elections planned for next year.

"In Egypt re are no reliable polls of opinion, and institutes that previously made m have been forced to close ir doors," warns political analyst Wael to be in a café in downtown Cairo. "But re is unanimity when it comes to downgrading president's popularity," he explains. He also recalls that in 2015 legislatures — in which Al-Sisi hoped to see his electoral victory last year — more than two-thirds of voters turned ir backs on ballot box.

Despite fact that government of Cairo relies on being able to close 2017 with a gross domestic product growth rate of 3.5%, free floating of Egyptian pound imposed a year ago by International Monetary Fund (IMF) has precipitated fall in quote of The currency, which has since lost half of its value against dollar and euro. With average wages of between 200 and 300 euros per month, many Egyptians can no longer afford rampant food and drug prices while cutting public subsidies on commodities.

"This is highest inflation rate registered in last 30 years," says economist Amro Aldy. "The state suffers from a large funding shortfall since 2012, when currency reserves were halved." The government resorted to help of Gulf monarchies to float, but in 2016 only option was to adopt IMF's austerity program, "says this expert trained at American University of Cairo." "Unless currency-generating sectors such as tourism recover soon, Egypt will be in a very problematic situation in next four or five years," he warns.

In this context of economic turbulence, Egyptian military dome continues to maintain direct control of up to 8% of national wealth and a growing influence on large companies through allocation of privatizations. The most disadvantaged layers, around one-third of population, see in meantime how subsidies are reduced in a country where re is barely a minimum safety net of a welfare state.

Al Sisi pledged in 2014 to offer stability and security after revolution of 2011. "He told us about sacrifices in exchange for future improvements, but it has happened quite opposite," says analyst. "People are living worse and any expression of dissent is restricted," he adds. "Look at how security is in Sinai after worst known terrorist attack in Egypt." "Small opposition groups are being crushed while threat of terrorism has been shot."

Does anyone dare defy hegemony of Exmarshal in Egypt in this context? Analysts and political experts observe steps of two possible alternative candidates for Al Sisi. From civil society and left, figure of labor lawyer Khalid Ali, who became notorious in challenging president to courts in case of Red Sea islands handed over to Saudi Arabia, has gained strength.

Mubarak Nostalgic

Since Hosni Mubarak's old regime also gains weight Ahmed Shafik, former chief of Air Force and last prime minister of ousted dictator before Tahrir revolt. Not only does Mubarak's nostalgic support him, but he has ample support in world of big business, which does not seem to see with very good eyes attempts of military dome to get more slice of market.

Shafik, who confronted Islamist Morsi in presidentials of 2012, lives abroad in a self-imposed exile. Advocates Khalid Ali, who are already beginning to suffer from harassment of security services, barely have relative force in large cities.

"People prefer to express ir opinion now on social networks," argues blogger Kandar. More than 400 government-critical web pages have restricted access from inside Egypt, and content on Facebook and Twitter are closely monitored by security services, but y are not blocked. Encrypted messaging systems such as WHATSAPP or Signal enjoy great predicament among young Egyptians. "There are many leaders who could do ir job better," concludes analyst, "but Al Sisi does not admit competition: anyone who disagrees to silence."

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