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Thursday, 22 March 2018

El Sisi, presidential elections, World Cup, and Mo Salah under foreign press spotlight

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and the presidential election getting underway next week are in the foreign media’s spotlight this morning. The Financial Times’ Heba Saleh and Andrew England write that El Sisi has stabilized Egypt but critics are warning of growing oppression. Critics fear that El Sisi’s “tough rule” Egypt is experiencing now is just storing up problems for the future as demographic and economic pressures mount. There are also expectations that El Sisi’s “unprecedented crackdown” is setting up the president to remain in power “for the long term,” Human Rights Watch researcher Amr Magdi tells Reuters. However, it is unlikely Egypt will face any consequences from European leaders, who are showing “growing indifference … to the defense of human rights” and are instead focusing on stability, Judy Dempsey writes for the Washington Post.

Egypt’s middle class is “bracing for more hardship” under El Sisi’s expected second term as the government presses on with austerity measures, Arwa Gaballa and Ali Abdelaty write for Reuters. The middle class is currently unlikely to stage large-scale demonstrations against living conditions but “their main grievance that would drive them to do so would be economic hardship.” Meanwhile, Islamist Statelet mouthpiece Al Jazeera is running an infograph-based piece on how Egypt’s economy has fared under El Sisi’s rule by looking at several factors — including inflation, unemployment rates, and remittances.

Others are viewing the situation positively. “For the first time, there is somebody who is making decisions based on the long-term welfare of the country … For a long time, Egyptian governments traded popularity for sustainability,” Qalaa Holdings Chairman Ahmed Heikal says. Heikal also endorsed El Sisi publicly in an op-ed he wrote for Al Shorouk. Egypt’s Coptic Christians are also expected to cast ballots for El Sisi’s performance in the vote as they are thankful to the incumbent president for ousting the Ikhwan from power, according to AFP. However, some activists have pointed out that “the Church does not represent all Christians,” which do not vote in one homogeneous bloc. Meanwhile, Sisi’s only opponent, Moussa Moustafa Moussa, says his campaign is “very serious,” according to the Associated Press.

…The elections can be viewed as an attempt by El Sisi to win a vote of confidence rather than an actual contest, Clifford D May writes for The Washington Times. He suggests that the international community should separate freedom from democracy and to press El Sisi to take steps to increase the former. “As we should have learned over recent years: Elections alone do not a democracy make. So start with human rights, the most basic being freedom of religion and belief. Next comes the freedom to express one’s beliefs. Before long, establish minority rights without which balloting is a path to majoritarian tyranny which is no better than other forms of tyranny. The journey toward a freer society that, over time, becomes a more democratic society won’t be quick or easy. Nothing guarantees success. But if there’s a better way, I’m not seeing it.”

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