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Will Sisi run for second term?

Considering economic setbacks and heightened political oppression under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's watch, some are questioning his chances of success if he runs for a second term.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi arrives to attend the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, September 4, 2016. REUTERS/Rolex dela Pena/Pool - RTX2O25B

“The winner of the presidency of the Arab Republic of Egypt is Mr. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.” These are words many Egyptians do not want to hear again after having heard them echo loudly for two years since his first day as president-elect.

“If the will of the Egyptian people requires me to run for another term, I will so do," said Sisi, hinting at his intention to run for a second term in office in a talk Aug. 23 with editors-in-chief of national newspapers.

These words are reminiscent of a statement given by Sisi in the aftermath of the ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi on July 3, 2013; Sisi, the minister of defense, announced his resignation from his military post and intention to run for president to meet the people’s demand. “I will only run for president if the people demand it and after my army authorizes it,” Sisi said on Jan. 11, 2014.

Sisi’s hint at planning to run for a second term was met by countless waves of anger and sarcasm by Egyptians who have endured a period of economic deterioration. While aid and monetary support has been flooding in from Gulf states since Sisi took office in 2014, many of these funds were spent on illusory projects. The only results Egyptians witnessed from these projects were price increases — especially in imported food commodities — with the budget deficit widening to 9.8% of the gross domestic product, the unemployment rate exceeding 40% and more taxes imposed on the poor who already suffer from the high costs of living.

With the country swinging between economic failure to political oppression, the general who took office on June 8, 2014, could commit to prison leaders and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as thousands from the opposition who had even supported his ouster of the Brotherhood. He has also oppressed freedoms, exercised added pressure on journalists and prevented them from doing their work. Security agencies who control the reins of the state and select ministers and officials have become even more brutal, as they are responsible for the deterioration and violation of human rights and the forced disappearances of thousands of young people, especially students.

Sisi was able to form an obedient parliament that consists of retired generals and remnants of the National Democratic Party of Egypt through the formation of the Support Egypt Coalition, which has taken over the legislature, adopted the viewpoint of the president, and approved of the government program and bylaws without discussion. Moreover, Ali Abdel Aal, the speaker of the House of Representatives who described Sisi as having “an imagination that foresees the future and that could recover the prestige of an authentic national leader,” ignores the voices in the streets and has threatened to refer parliament members with opposing opinions to the Ethics Committee.

Egypt ranked 158th out of 178 countries in the annual Reporters Without Borders Freedom Index in the January-May 2016 report.

As soon as Essam Heggy, a NASA scientist and former scientific consultant for former President Adly Mansour, announced forming a presidential team to run for the 2018 presidential elections, a wild wave of criticism was launched against him by pro-Sisi politicians and anchormen. However, those affiliated with the January 25 Revolution considered it to be an attempt that could revive the politically engaged atmosphere.

According to the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research - Baseera, which is close to the regime, a survey carried out four months ago showed Sisi’s popularity had fallen a little after 26 months of taking office, dropping to 82% compared with 91% previously. But others believe Sisi's popularity has dropped much more precipitously. Ahmed Moussa, an anchorman close to the regime, caused a ruckus when he put together a poll on Twitter where 78% of participants expressed opposition to Sisi's running for a second term. Moussa had to shut down his account, claiming that hackers took it over.

Egyptians have made fun of Sisi’s plans to run for a second term by using his own words before taking office — “Egypt will become as big as the world” — by changing them into “In fact, this is not a state, it’s something like it.” Comments bombarded his official page on Facebook.

“Dear Mr. President, you are unable to put together a strategy for the main dossiers. Your performance is done so randomly. You think you have superpowers that can make you lead a country with a set of individual decisions. What have you done to the education dossier according to your vague platform? You are stirring the economic file like a labor contractor, not a president. Whenever there is a successful income-generating economic project, the army takes it over. Then you claim that the army is spending money on us. Army commanders have turned into contractors who only seek their financial interest. Enough is enough,” an Egyptian named Ahmed Badr wrote.

Meanwhile, Sayyed Fahmy said, “The government is a failure, the prices are high and the poor are dying. Think of the country before you think of clinging to the office.”

Ahmed El Dossary posted the following, “Go ahead, Mr. President. Run for that second term. Some projects are not yet destroyed; go ahead and destroy them. There are things where we ranked penultimate, so please work harder so we could happily seize that last place.”

“You can run for the second term. I will not vote for your like I did the last time. You disappointed us. The country is going backward as fast as lightning. Those who voted you president are the same ones suffering from the high prices, unemployment and lack of security. Get over those who keep saying that your popularity reached 92% because you have lost all that you could have had left,” Ahmed El Behairy posted.

Hassan Nafea, a professor of political science at Cairo University, told Al-Monitor, “The president was not successful in announcing his plans to run for a second term, especially as this is not the time for the next elections nor for the vetting for candidacies yet. However, he wanted to answer those who are calling for early presidential elections. The timing of his announcement provoked the people.” 

Nafea said, “His attempt to defy those who call for early presidential elections is very inappropriate for a president. There have been concerns and discomfort in Egypt at Sisi’s economic policy and the way he handles the corruption dossier. There is even a feeling that the state’s financial resources are being squandered on projects that have no actual benefit. There’s also a lack of efficiency in the government and the parliament that is obviously incapable of carrying on its regulatory and legislative responsibilities."

Nafea added, “He has the right to run, according to the constitution, when it is the time for elections. However, the elections should be fair." Nafea expressed his concern that the elections could be rigged.

In addition, Gehad Auda, a professor of political science at Helwan University, told Al-Monitor, “Sisi has not presented a platform that he would adopt for another term. He cannot be asked again to run for president through popular support like the previous election.” 

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