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Sisi offers opportunity for renewed Egyptian centrality

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt has a chance to resume the central role in the Arab world that it lost after the Camp David Accords.
Presidential candidate and Egypt's former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi talks during a television interview broadcast on CBC and ONTV, in Cairo,  May 6, 2014. Sisi, who is expected to win a presidential election this month, said in a television interview broadcast on Tuesday that costly energy subsidies could not be lifted quickly. REUTERS/Al Youm Al Saabi Newspaper (EGYPT - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) EGYPT OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN EGYPT - RTR3OCB5

The ceremonies celebrating the election of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as Egyptian president were elegant and represented Egypt's first peaceful transfer of power from an acting president to a new, elected one. While this is a welcome development, it does not obscure some outcomes of the election itself, in which 48% of the electorate gave almost 97% of the vote to Sisi. The turnout was much less than expected, lending a minor deficit to the extent of the legitimacy of the legally elected president. It was equally surprising that Hamdeen Sabahi, the other presidential candidate, received less then 4% of the vote. In the 2012 presidential elections, he finished third, out of five candidates, with 21.5% of the vote.

This, in a way, deflects from the level of enthusiasm for Sisi. With these perhaps minor reservations, it is clear that Egypt is on the path of a new regime. There is a great deal of hope throughout the Arab world that Egypt will resume its role as the cross-fertilizer between the national experiences of the North African and West Asian Arab states and will regain the centrality of its nationalist role in the Arab arena following its diminishment as a result of President Anwar Sadat’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, after which Egypt was suspended from the Arab League (and readmitted 10 years later, in 1989).

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