One-horse race

Gen Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s victory in Egypt’s presidential election was never in doubt.

With all of Egypt’s institutions under his thumb and having jailed, eliminated or banned any credible challenge to his presidential bid, Sisi’s victory was a foregone conclusion. Although a well-respected communist Hamdeen Sabahi threw his hat in the ring, the fight for the presidency was a one-horse race from the start and Gen Sisi won 93 per cent of the vote. The huge margin by which he won suggests rigging, raising questions over the credibility of his victory. Besides, just 46 per cent of the electorate showed up to vote. The banned Muslim Brotherhood, which won the last presidential election, called for a boycott of the election and secular and liberal Egyptians too stayed away. In a bid to make Sisi’s victory more believable, officials are said to have forced people to vote. Sisi, who ousted president Mohammad Morsi in a coup last year, contested elections to give his rule democratic legitimacy. His electoral victory notwithstanding, few will regard him as a democratic leader.

Gen Sisi, after all, is a product of the Mubarak era and is widely seen as the new face of the old guard. His election as president was backed by powerful Mubarak-era officials. Many of them are expected to be appointed to senior positions. Those who participated in the mass movement to oust president Mubarak will be sorely disappointed. They can take heart from the fact that Sisi cannot remain president for decades. Egypt’s new constitution allows a president two terms only, ruling out at least in theory, the possibility of 30-year dictatorships as under Mubarak.

There are expectations that Sisi’s presidency will usher in a measure of political stability. But this stability is likely to be more in the nature of order than peace. If Sisi’s ruthless approach to dissent since last year’s coup is any indication of what lies ahead, it does seem that Egypt is staring at a long spell of repression. During his election campaign Sisi promised that the Muslim Brotherhood “will cease to exist.” This does not bode well. He must develop tolerance towards political Islam, else Egypt’s political polarisation will deepen. A major challenge Sisi faces is reviving Egypt’s shattered economy. Failure to deal with mass unemployment could see Egypt’s protestors back on the streets.

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