Egypt has always been admired for its pyramids and the remains of its ancient civilization. The country has always played a detrimental part in the Middle east politics and of recently, the ‘Arab Spring’. However, with the change of political wind within the territory, Egypt has been put under the scrutiny of world leaders and political thinkers.
The country declared itself to be a ‘Republic’ in 1953 after the revolution of 1952 when the powers were passed to the military. Egypt prior to that was ruled by a group of royal families and had its first elected President in 1953. But the most influential political period lasted under Hosni Mubarak’s reign which lasted for more than 30 years until he was ‘dethroned’ from his dictatorial practices in 2011. He had served as the vice-President under Anwar Sadat, the path towards the Presidential life began after Sadat’s assassination. The former President has known to survived six assassination attempts made by the Islamist militants in Cairo. Mubarak known to be the Quasi- Military leader who had kept imposing emergency although out his Presidentship was the biggest set back of his government, but despite the strict emergency rules followed by the citizens for almost 30 years his government could not be toppled. Hosni’s attempt was more of a ‘draconian’ regime to combat with military extremists and he did consider of opening up Egypt’s political and economic doors to democracy with the help of his biggest ally, the United States of America.
What political scientists and International Relations enthusiasts could gather from Mubarak’s Presidentship is that despite the flaws which usually will not be accepted as per the 21st century norms of ‘democratic’ regimes there where factors, both political and social which sustained his government and these factors later on became the reasons for his ‘unsustainability.’ With the democratic winds bringing a change across the Middle East, authoritarianism, constitutional changes for power dynamics, limited press freedom and the oppression of the opposition, were realised to be an absolute replica of ‘dictatorship.’ The Centre for European Policy Studies also revealed some economic factors such as distribution of resources, welfare programmes and rising poverty which led to Mubarak’s fall. The same report had suggested the challenges which lied ahead of Mubarak’s fall, for the new regimes who would take a step towards ‘democratic’ transformation.
They identified constitutional reforms and the role of political and civil groups in this transition to play an important part, alongside economic policies for the just distribution of resources. The future of Egypt was termed to be ‘opaque’ in 2011 and partly it continues to be the same under the President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
After the massive protests in the streets of Cairo against Mubarak, Mohamad Morsi was elected as the President in 2012, but he lasted for only a year as in 2013 he was overthrown by Sisi in a military coup d’etat. The protests broke out due his increasing ‘authoritarianism’ and an adoption of Islamist rule despite the heavily imposed secularism or ‘rule of law’ mentioned in the constitution. So, after the protests ended with Morsi’s resignation, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi became the 6th President of Egypt in 2014. Before joining office, he had already dismissed his opponents and called for a new constitution outlining a new political map for the country.
Interestingly enough, his Presidentship wasn’t quite the ‘democratic reform.’ TheRabaa Massacre,2013 under the interim government was a subject of international criticism and since then media statesmen have named him ‘another dictator in progress.’ A lot of detainees have been kept in prison and alongside revolutionaries, journalists and liberalists who have been a part of the unrest of 2011.
Moving forward to the present and with Sisi continuing his second term after the March 2018 elections, a new petition is underway called the ‘People Demand’ which is a petition which demands that Sisi continue his Presidentship even after his second term.
A similar petition was undertaken for the March 2018 elections to gather support for the President. The Guardian reports that people were paid to sign the petitions and the signatures amounted to approximately 13 million. Such ‘forced’ petition signing is another example of how much ‘authority’ the President wants to exercise. However, concerning the future elections Sisi arrested his opposition. Sami Anan, Chief of Staff of Egyptian armed forces who expressed his wishes to stand against Sisi was arrested on no concrete grounds and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi cleared his way for the third term.
Anan isn’t the only opponent arrested but also a human right activist named Khalid Ali was forced out of the elections for the incumbent president. Authoritarianism has again started captivating the democratic winds and the Sisi administration has consolidated power in its hand with no media representatives. Human rights websites and all societal groups have also been pressurized to work as per the norms of the government. Questions of insecurity on Sisi has been thrown and the arrest of these candidates who poses no threat to a leader like Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Economic programmes also failed to revive the poverty and the promised reforms for employment had failed miserably leading to high inflation.
It would be to wrong to not mention about the geopolitics post-Mubarak period and now under the current Sisi ‘rule’. The military is back in the game and Trump’s administration has appreciated the blockade against Qatar by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE and Egypt. Sisi is confident enough that despite his domestic performance, he would still be getting billions of dollars as military aid from the US. After coming in power, the Saudi-Iran relations have undergone stress due to their involvement in the country’s so called ‘transition’. Saudi Arabia had expressed its concern over the strong Egyptian and Iranian ties, as they are too emerging as strong players in the MENA region. The matter in Egypt is worsening day by day, as internal situations are moving as per supreme ‘authority’ practised by the President. To emerge as a regional power in the MENA region, Sisi would have to revise his foreign policies and work towards a joining the fragments of his own country.
*Arijita Sinha Roy is a Research Intern at The Kootneeti, a New Delhi based policy tank on International Relations & Diplomacy