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Egypt faces its toughest political challenge yet with upcoming elections

Protesters celebrate with a photo of Sisi after the ousting of President Morsi on July 3rd 2013. Photo: Reuters

Protesters celebrate with a photo of Sisi after the ousting of President Morsi on July 3rd 2013. Photo: Reuters

HOST INTRO: Egyptians are going to the polls next month. And it’s an election that the US is isn’t crazy about. After a revolution, just three years ago,  Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, the old military chief, said last week that he’s going to run for president. And it looks like he might win. Marie Shabaya looks at how the country is gearing up for another political rollercoaster.


Abdel Fattah El-Sisi is already the de facto leader of Egypt since he ousted his old boss, the country civilian President, Mohamed Morsi last summer. A week ago, he stepped down as the head of the military so he could run for President.

HANNA:  General Sisi will win.

Michael Hanna, is a fellow at the New York based Century Foundation.

HANNA: We can’t say this is going to be a free and fair process but the General does possess real popular support. [13s]

So Egypt is going to elect a military leader, when 3 years ago they wanted the exact opposite and got rid of, military dictator, Hosni Mubarak. But it seems that Egyptians think that Sisi is not too bad, at least for now.

Amir Beshay, is from Egypt and he’s a Graduate student at New York University.

BESHAY: A lot of people think that a strong man is what Egypt needs right now.

He’s been following Egyptian politics very closely since the 2011 revolution.

BESHAY: Morsi’s year in power just lowered a lot of people’s expectations and made them realise, you know what maybe we can live with a little bit less than we had expected just so we can get to some semblance of stability and economic growth and then we can a political and democratic process from there rather than suddenly trying to change things.

A willingness to take the long view means many Egyptians do actually support Sisi and even though he is not exactly a vision of democracy. But that comes at a cost—close to 2 billion dollars to be exact. Michael Hanna, thinks Sisi in power would create problems for the US.

HANNA: There has been a very robust USAID program that has been primarily directed at foreign military funding that has been suspended. [11s]

So Congress cut off military and civilian aid to Egypt. And it can only be restored if Secretary of State John Kerry thinks the country is making some effort to be more democratic. But with Morsi in jail and the Muslim Brotherhood banned that might be hard to do.  So far in the post-coup crackdown, thousands of people have been killed by the Egyptian army. Egyptian authorities claim they are terrorists and has managed to squeeze over 16,000 of them in to over-crowded prisons across the country. With all this in the background, Hanna says that Egypt doesn’t have a chance to get back in Kerry’s good graces.

HANNA: I think it’s very unlikely that we will see a certification any time soon. I don’t see any urgency in Washington to make a decision either way. [10s]

Relations between the US and Egypt aren’t great and they haven’t been since Sisi helped get rid of Morsi. Either way Sameh Hassan, an Egyptian student who was one of the protesters at Tahrir Square three years ago, is very positive about what happens next in his country.

HASSAN: What the young people took the Tahrir Square was basically to reform the country was to build a new democratic civil country, a modern civil country. Are we close? Definitely we are not close but I believe that we’ve taken a lot of steps towards this goal. [15s]

Polls open on the 26th of May. With no viable opposition running , Sisi is expected to win.

Marie Shabaya, Columbia Radio News.


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