Magazine article New Internationalist

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

Magazine article New Internationalist

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi

Article excerpt

Job: President of Egypt.

Reputation: Military ruler with an electoral fig leaf and a big ego.

There is nothing to make one feel more insecure than having a head of the security services become the leader of a country - just ask the Russians. The most recent is Egypt's ex-General Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi. The austere former director of military intelligence was 'elected' in May 2014 in a landslide victory in which he gained a suspicious 93 per cent of the vote. These dictator-style numbers hide the fact that just 38 per cent of Egyptians bothered voting at all - well below the 51 per cent that in 2012 voted for the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, the man el-Sisi so successfully plotted to overthrow.

Not that el-Sisi was totally devoid of supporters. The incompetent and authoritarian style of the Brotherhood alienated many Egyptians who had hoped for a freer and more just society after the Tahrir Square revolt that saw offthe corrupt Mubarak dictatorship. The Brotherhood needed a light hand at the tiller in a country of mixed religious persuasions and a strong secular tradition in civil society. Instead, their heavy-handed approach, which alienated many Egyptians, particularly the new activist generation, played into the hands of el-Sisi and the military high command who seized power, outlawed the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and killed hundreds of mostly unarmed demonstrators.

El-Sisi and his circle have carefully stoked a cult of personality around the General (who in January promoted himself to Field Marshal). He claims his presidency was foretold to him years ago in a dream. Some Egyptians claim to have seen his face in a cloud; a columnist offered herself as an extra wife, so entranced was she by his 'magic charm'. Opinion polls have been more sober, putting his initial support at under 50 per cent. But today Egypt is plastered with his picture and large billboards proclaiming 'We love you, we support you, we pledge allegiance to you, O el-Sisi, as president, as commander, as leader'.

The Egyptian military has a good deal to defend: it controls up to 40 per cent of the economy (el-Sisi claims it is just two per cent), including a handsome real-estate portfolio and 35 companies and factories producing everything from pasta to flat-screen TVs. …

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