President Al-Sisi ran a very successful election campaign, persuading millions of Egyptians to vote for him in order to save the country from the Muslim Brotherhood. So far, the president appears not to heed the fact that Egyptians initially revolted against the lack of justice, freedom and dignity that existed for almost half a century prior to the one-year Muslim Brotherhood rule. Al-Sisi is betting on the wrong horse by believing that his popularity and legitimacy give him and his regime the right to mistreat power and to use excessive force among innocent civilians for the purpose of ‘fighting terrorism’.
Quite apart from the challenge of the Muslim Brotherhood and of terrorism at large, a large portion of Egyptians believes that Egypt lacks fundamental justice. There are certainly thousands of innocent citizens in prison. Hundreds of others were killed without a single criminal being brought to justice. Meanwhile, the media focuses on attacking citizens who demand that the regime comply with the goals of the revolution. This situation has led to the corrosion of the president’s popularity, and has produced a spirit of exacting revenge by applying the philosophy of ‘an eye for an eye’. Frustrations among citizens are accumulating daily, threatening to blow up into widespread chaos at any moment.
Egyptians revolted against Mubarak who was the target of the revolution. However, they did not only want to get rid of Mubarak’s regime, but also of his failures and corrupt policies. Keeping the corrupt body while replacing the head with a new, popular president who shares the same ‘Iron Fist’ rule mindset cannot last for long. If such strong-handed measures did not help the well-established former president, who was quite skillful at using government entities (Egypt’s deep state) to manipulate his opponents, including the Brotherhood, they certainly won’t help President Al-Sisi who is facing a bolder opposition than Mubarak ever did.
Furthermore, the ‘Iron Fist’ approach was technically manageable during the Mubarak era when Egyptians were afraid of challenging the ruler. Today, however, Egyptians have broken the fear barrier – to the extent that it has become fashionable for citizens to challenge their superiors, including the ruler of the country. The state may believe that it is strengthening its grip on citizens by ruling the country through unjust and cruel measures. In fact, it is getting weaker, more inefficient, and is incapable of wisely handling its opposition and protesters. After two revolutions, adopting the same methods used by Mubarak simply will not work.
The 25 January Revolution was not about a nation searching for an emotional president who loves his people; it was about the absence of justice and freedom, and the severe measures used by the security apparatus – all of which remains unchanged. Turning a blind eye on the thousands of innocent civilians who were assassinated and imprisoned and forfeiting the proper application of the rule of law to strengthen security will certainly result in chaos. The Egyptian state will be stronger by applying the rule of law, not by abusing its power.
The tactic of attempting to compensate the lack of justice by boosting the economy will not succeed. Investors won’t invest in a country with blood on its streets, where there is widespread corruption, and where basic security is lacking. Even the few projects that the government has managed to implement are lacking in transparency, fair and equal opportunities and proper distribution of wealth. In addition, I trust that the ruler is aware that he can’t boost the economy in the absence of political stability.
President Al-Sisi has done an excellent job of mobilising millions of Egyptians to vote for him. However, he is currently working on fragmenting and polarising Egyptian society to sustain his position as the strong, popular president and to weaken what remains of the political opposition. This fragmentation will be clearly reflected in the coming parliament.
Egyptians have become skillful at destroying and extremely inefficient at building. This is obviously the end result of a regime that is systemically working on getting rid of all kinds of leadership; citizens’ ideas and energies that won’t be used in a constructive way will be turned towards accumulated destruction. Pointing the country towards chaos only needs a few dedicated thousands with a good motive and ample justification. The government, unfortunately, is helping to provide both. Furthermore, widespread chaos could certainly prevent the president from continuing his term in office.
Enabling all political forces, including Mubarak’s corrupt allies, to struggle among one another in the absence of a clear political vision and without enforcing the rule of law can only lead to more instability and chaos. The Muslim Brotherhood has succeeded in dragging the state towards widespread chaos – with the support of the government that is unwisely responding to this trap by being harsher with the entire community and labelling all protesters Brotherhood members. Blaming the Brotherhood for all the government’s faults is no longer feasible.
I am afraid that Al-Sisi is missing a great chance by not reforming the three politically driven entities; the judiciary, the police and the media. These entities appear to be playing a fundamental role in what may be perceived as providing support for the president against opposition forces and terrorism. However, by being unjust, they are in reality weakening the state and the president himself. I am convinced that citizens who defend values are usually stronger than those who employ illegal measures. The reality on the ground at this moment in time may contradict this argument, but justice will certainly prevail eventually.
The rehabilitation of the police department to enable it to better handle demonstrations, the application of true justice (instead of the current policy of buying time and ignoring evidence that could condemn real criminals), and the replacement of the policy of praising the president all the time with a balanced media perspective, are all crucial factors that must be implemented urgently. President Al-Sisi recently stated that he is very keen on the issue of human rights. This rhetoric must be converted into reality by enforcing the rule of law. Reform will certainly strengthen the president’s political status. Equally certain is the fact that the current policy will keep the country in chaos for years to come