Analysis: With a Sisi presidency imminent, expect business as usual in Egypt

Egyptian army chief will have more authority to act in all spheres of domestic, foreign policy if he runs and is elected president.

February 7, 2014 07:30
3 minute read.
Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi 370. (photo credit: Reuters)


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If Egyptian army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announces his run for the presidency as reports indicate, it can be expected that his election would be assured and that he would continue current policies in addition to new domestic initiatives aimed at improving the economy.

A Kuwaiti newspaper reported that he had said in an interview he would run for president, though a quick response from the military called the story “speculation.”

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Even though Sisi is currently the power player behind the scenes, if he runs and is elected president, he will have more authority to act in all spheres of domestic and foreign policy. We may even see more intense policies in these spheres, as Sisi feels the pressure to bring results and avoid government instability.

Observing his behavior to date makes it seem likely that he will largely continue along the path he has charted so far.

Sisi probably wants to wait to announce his candidacy until the last minute before the upcoming elections in order to minimize the amount of time that the Islamists would have to protest and carry out attacks, Zvi Mazel, who served as Israel’s sixth ambassador to Egypt, told The Jerusalem Post. Mazel is a fellow at The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a contributor to this newspaper.

The jihadists need to continue attacking the regime because of their fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will disappear from the political scene, Mazel said. The Brotherhood is a large, established organization that will be needed if Islamists want to return to power.

Asked if there was much of a difference between Sisi’s position now, as head of the army and first deputy prime minister, and that of president, Mazel said that there was a big difference between being the real president, with all of the powers that it entails, and being the man behind the scenes.

Mazel believes that while Sisi remains an enigma, the information that we do have about him makes it seem that he will aim at improving the economy and security.

“He is a man with a vision,” said Mazel.

He noted that in Sisi’s 2006 paper titled “Democracy in the Middle East,” which he wrote while studying at the US Army War College, he said that democracy was difficult to implement in the Middle East and would have to be adapted to Islam and the local cultural realities.

If you look at the kind of people he appointed in the interim government, you see that he chose liberal technocrats, and not security people.

Asked if Sisi would became a strong charismatic autocrat like former president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Mazel said that Sisi is “a different man” and it is a “new era” following the protests and overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak.

On the foreign policy front, Mazel said Sisi was likely to strive for strong relations with the US and the EU, because they are the principal powers that would be able to help improve the domestic economic situation, but that he would keep the Russian option open – just in case.

Liad Porat, who specializes in Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood and is a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told the Post that if Sisi were elected, he would likely continue the policies of the current government.

There would be less patience for internal disturbances, and he would probably keep the peace with Israel, cooperating quietly away from the cameras. In other words, a Sisi presidency would be similar to that of former president Mubarak, said Porat.

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