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al-Sisi Victory – a Contribution to Regional Stability?

al-Sisi wins landslide victory in Egypt, but faces huge challenges that will influence MENA stability.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, former Egyptian army chief, was victorious this week, winning a landslide victory in Thursday’s presidential election. However, low turnout on the day marred his celebrations and threatened to deny him the strong mandate needed to revitalise Egypt’s economy and hold out against an Islamist insurgency.

Egypt’s new president won with 93.3 percent of votes according to judicial sources. His only rival, left wing Hamdeen Sabahi, managed just gained 3 percent, with the remaining 3.7 percent declared void. Despite the impressive figures, unexpectedly low numbers of voters is causing doubts about al-Sisi and whether he can, as his many adoring supporters believe, deliver stability.

With protests toppling two Egyptian presidents in three year, the pressure is on to show he is the man for the job and prove his doubters wrong. However, al-Sisi brings the traditional Egyptian powerhouse, the army, with him in his duties.

The country’s economy is in a poor state, tormented by mass unemployment, budget deficits, corruption, high unemployment, and fuel subsidies threatening to cost nearly $19 billion in the next fiscal year. Many believe that the vague economic plans al-Sisi has outlined will not be enough to heal Egypt. The weak turnout at the polls, just 46 percent of Egypt’s 54 million voters, will not make it easy for him to impose what IHS analysts refer to as “painful economic reforms”.

Reuters reported that their tour of polling stations suggested turnout was low, and that many Egyptians said voters had “stayed at home due to political apathy, opposition to another military man becoming president, discontent at suppression of freedoms among liberal youth, and calls for a boycott by Islamists”.

Supporters regard al-Sisi as a strong figure who can end the turmoil that has gripped Egypt since the revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak. However, critics fear he is just another autocrat who enjoys the backing of the armed forces and the Interior Ministry, as well as businessmen who thrived under Mubarak and are still highly influential. Al-Sisi does have the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, which see Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood as an existential threat.

He faces the arduous challenge of defeating an Islamist armed insurgency and eradicating threat from the Brotherhood, which had won every national vote held after Mubarak’s fall. The Brotherhood, a loyal to Mursi and outlawed as a terrorist group, has rejected the election, calling it an extension of the army takeover.

Five Dimensions Consultants analysed the country’s elections and the implications of al-Sisi’s victory and predicted in advance that he would achieve a comfortable win over Mahlab. Five Dimensions also predict that the likely scenario that, despite his loss, Ibrahim Mahlab will remain in his position as Prime Minister.

Egyptian society remains deeply divided and there is no guarantee that the presidential election outcome will result in a decline in the levels of violence that have plagued the country since 2011, say Five Dimensions. The Middle East specialist consultants highlight that since July 2013 over a thousand supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been killed by the security forces, and many more have been imprisoned.

As Egypt’s economy teeters on the brink as a consequence of overly generous energy subsidies and lost earnings from tourism and foreign investment, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will have little time to celebrate if the country is to avoid further instability.

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