What Does El-Sisi’s Re-Election Mean for the Security Situation in Egypt?
Image source: Egypt Today
April 26, 2018
In March, for the third time since the 2011 revolution, Egyptians went back to the ballot boxes for a presidential election. With a 40% turnout and 97% of the vote, Egyptians overwhelmingly re-elected Egyptian President and Former Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. However, questions remain about the legitimacy of the election, with a lack of competition and reports that some voters were offered incentives, such as food and money, to cast their votes in Sisi’s favor.
Sisi’s re-election also raises a larger question: Does he have the capacity to lead the country to better economic conditions and a safer, more secure country?
During his six years in office the country has faced dire economic conditions, including a large public deficit at 9.4% of GDP for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Egyptians also face consistent inflation in the price of goods, fuel and electricity, which increased regularly over the past year in increments of 30 - 40 percent, with the exception of some reports citing lower prices just before the elections. Recently, Egypt has been enforcing austerity measures such as reducing food subsidies and raising fuel prices under IMF-mandated economic reforms, which raises the cost of living and risks of backfiring as the population faces increasing difficulties.
Beyond the economy, the security situation has worsened, particularly in Sinai where it has hit a “new low”, according to some analysts. Sinai 2018, initiated by Sisi in February 2018, is explained as an Egyptian Armed Forces and Interior Ministry-led counter-terrorism campaign to secure the Sinai region. The state says it primarily targets Islamist insurgents and other criminal activities in the region that affect national security and stability. The region has experienced insurgency since the start of the Egyptian revolution in 2011, which initially led to Sisi’s rule.
Egyptian officials continue to report unverified terrorist killings out of the Sinai conflict, yet the region seems to continue to deplete under the so called “brute force” strategy of Sisi. Even with renewed pledges by officials to transform Sinai into a tourism and agricultural destination, Sisi’s security and stability efforts continue to struggle, with attacks claiming the lives of more than 400 civilians in recent months. In March, just before the elections, an assassination attempt on Alexandria's head of security Mostafa al-Nemr failed, yet just a few months prior, a terrorist attack on a Sinai mosque left at least 235 dead.
Even given the realities of the current security and economic conditions under Sisi, his re-election campaign was virtually unopposed; his only opponent, Moussa Mostafa Moussa. The seeminly “staged” run off between Sisi and Moussa strikes close parallels to the first election held in Egypt in 2005 that elected Hosni Mubarak for a fifth consecutive six-year term.
Moussa was publicly a pro-Sisi politician up until January 29, 2018, when he announced his intent to run opposite Sisi. While Moussa denied suggestions that he ran solely to provide a second candidate in the election, he made public statements in support of Sisi’s candidacy. Further, in a television interview he described his decision to run as a “national duty” and referred to the potential of an uncontested election as “an image not suitable for Egypt,” according to Reuters. Overall, Moussa’s campaign was not much of a campaign. Outside of a few television appearances, he wasn’t seen in public for weeks prior to the election and declined debates and interview requests by foreign media.
Originally, however, Moussa was not the only other candidate. In fact, his decision to run came later in the election than other prior opposition candidates.
During the weeks – and months – leading up to the election reports emerged of a government crackdown on both those attempting to run for office and those perceived as anti-government, including media, individuals, groups and websites. In March, following a call by 150 opposition leaders to boycott the election, Sisi immediately responded with a stern warning, stating “...it looks like you don’t know me well” and referring to the opposition as “villians”.
Further, Amnesty International, a UK-based rights group, called the blocking of 64 websites in a controversial deal passed by parliament in summer 2017 an “onslaught against media freedom.” And in weeks following the elections, Egyptian journalists were fined and even jailed for reporting on election fraud, including a website editor who was jailed for republishing a New York Times article on election fraud. His jailing was the result of a complaint from the national election authority. Egyptian government officials supporting these actions pre- and post-election claim they are intended to curb fictitious news for national security reasons.
With Sisi’s continued rule, it seems the security threat level in Egypt is unlikely to improve, as it has worsened since the 2011 uprising. His prior years plagued by economic hardship, jihadists attacks and security struggles in Sinai and Yemen, leave many in doubt about his ability to reverse the decline. Sisi is expected to continue his widely protested campaigns, which have prompted nationwide protests and anger, including the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood. He continues to describe the Brotherhood as the “most dangerous underground organisation in history”, an unpopular perspective in Sinai. Further, given the reports of fraud and intimidation during the recent elections, it is unlikely he will pull back on his campaigns against political activists and opposition groups.
Read more on the security threat in our analysis, An overview of the last 6 years in Egypt (the mainland and the peninsula).
The RedCrow Blog provides timely intelligence, coverage and analysis of potential security and threat incidents in conflict zones in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. RedCrow is a company that provides a subscription-based technology platform with a live intelligence feeds, which assists clients in identifying and avoiding threats both tactically and strategically.