• 15:36
  • Tuesday ,24 June 2014

How El-Sisi won Egypt's presidency

By-Hicham Mourad



Tuesday ,24 June 2014

How El-Sisi won Egypt's presidency

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi won the presidential election by an overwhelming majority of almost 97 percent. This crushing victory was predictable for several reasons. The first, and most important, is that he overthrew Egypt's former president, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, in response to huge popular protests against his rule on 30 June 2013.

Reacting positively to this popular mobilisation, El-Sisi, then defence minister, has since been perceived by a large majority of Egyptians as a saviour who protected the country from the mismanagement of the Brotherhood and from more political and sectarian division.
Christians in Egypt (around 10 percent of the population) felt particularly relieved by the removal of Morsi and the fall of the Brotherhood. They followed with great concern over the "Islamisation" of society, the constitution and laws implemented by the Brotherhood. They also feared a climate that was increasingly sectarian and less tolerant towards them, which culminated in the unprecedented deadly attack against the Abbasiya Coptic Cathedral on 7 April 2013. As a result, Christians participated heavily in the popular mobilisation of 30 June and then later voted overwhelmingly in favour of El-Sisi, who promised the end of the Brotherhood if elected.
Although the rival of El-Sisi, the Nasserite Hamdeen Sabahi, has also been hostile to the Brotherhood, saying that they have no place in the political arena, the stronger rhetoric of El-Sisi against the Brotherhood and his military background made him a better choice for the majority of Christians in Egypt.
The second reason for El-Sisi's victory relates to the restoration of security and stability. Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, Egypt has seen a rise in instability and crime. The political stalemate that marked the last months of Morsi's reign, and resulted in unrest and political protests of all kinds, made even more difficult the everyday lives of most Egyptians, who have largely suffered economically after the 2011 uprising.
The removal of Morsi introduced two new destabilising factors: unrest and protests led by the Brotherhood, and an increase in terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula and mainland Egypt. This condition has benefited El-Sisi. His reputation as a military strong man is largely responsible for his popularity with the majority of Egyptians, as opposed to Sabahi, who is a civilian. El-Sisi is seen as the man most likely to restore the security and stability that has been lost since 2011. The majority of those who took to the streets against Mubarak did so mainly for economic reasons. Even though they also aspired to establish democracy and the respect of human rights, a priority among the educated youth who spearheaded the uprising was to first and foremost improve their living conditions. Today, their choice is clear: stability comes first, in order to revive the economy, reduce unemployment and improve the lives of ordinary Egyptians.
In this context, the country's unemployment figures, long considered a social time bomb, are striking: 13.4 percent (3.6 million people) of the workforce are now seeking a job, against 8.9 percent (2.3 million) on the eve of the 2011 uprising. These official figures from the government are usually understated. Several studies put unemployment at over 20 percent.
El- Sisi understood this issue. He did not miss the opportunity to emphasise the link between security, stability and economic recovery. With the participation of the army, and especially thanks to funds from Gulf countries, El-Sisi benefited before his election from the announcement of several economic projects, from youth job training to social housing. Financial support from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait – all anti-Brotherhood – to Egypt's interim regime and military also benefited the field marshal.
Both the ordinary man and the business community understood that El-Sisi's rise to power, as opposed to the leftist Sabahi, would ensure the continuation of more Gulf aid, vital for economic recovery at a time when relations with western allies are not rosy.
Hailing from the "deep state" and its most prestigious institution, the army – which has restored its reputation since Morsi's rule – El-Sisi was supported by the "establishment", the major state bodies that were in conflict with the Brotherhood over the group's attempts to dominate them. For these state bodies, El-Sisi has the necessary management experience, drawn from his service in the state apparatus, unlike Sabahi. They find this reality reassuring, as it means he will not try to purge state institutions, as Morsi attempted.
In addition to the blessing of the state apparatus, including the army, we must also add the support of the majority of private media outlets, including widely-followed satellite channels, which were clearly hostile to the Brotherhood when they were in power and played an important role in mobilising the population against them. In their majority, they opted for El-Sisi. Some of them did so through creating a ripple effect, or through their own interests. Noting that he was the favourite of the presidential election, they felt it necessary to follow suit and support him.