The World Today for December 08, 2023


Empty Victories


Egypt’s economy is in shambles. Inflation is running at a record 38 percent. Youth unemployment is 17 percent.

The country’s human rights record is dismal. Police routinely arrest government critics on charges of misinformation, according to Amnesty International. Freedom of expression, the press, and assembly have given way to government-sanctioned activities.

Meanwhile, many Egyptians, struggling to survive, have become outraged that their government is doing little while Israeli forces pound Palestinians in Gaza, which abuts Egypt, wrote Foreign Affairs. The Palestinian group Hamas, meanwhile, is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that the Egyptian government views as a terrorist organization, the Council of Foreign Relations added. The European Union and the US have designated Hamas as a terror organization – but not the Muslim Brotherhood.

This climate would normally be terminal for a politician like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, who faces reelection on Dec. 10.

But, as the think tank the Arab Reform Initiative declared, there is little doubt that el-Sissi will emerge victorious when the polls close and the winner of the race is announced on Dec. 18.

The opposition in Egypt is moribund. A former military officer, el-Sissi ousted the North African country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi – a member of the Muslim Brotherhood – 10 years ago. Maybe because el-Sissi was nervous about the state of things worsening, he moved forward the vote from the spring of 2024 to the end of this year – a move that he claims is legal, so it is.

The economy is certainly growing worse, wrote Gillian Kennedy, a lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Southampton, in the Conversation. She noted that, in exchange for financial aid, the International Monetary Fund has imposed a draconian austerity program on Egypt that will push many more Egyptians into poverty.

Former lawmaker Ahmed Altantawy had given heart to those who dreamed that the democratic process would yield new leadership. Altantawy earned fame by openly criticizing el-Sissi in parliament.

In October, however, he quit, reported Africa News, saying that he and his supporters had suffered weeks of harassment and arrests that prevented them from compiling the signatures of 20 lawmakers, or 25,000 citizens, that he’d need to have for his candidacy for the presidency officially registered.

“Those trying to submit endorsements for candidates other than el-Sissi had found public notary offices inaccessible and protected by pro-government activists or thugs,” wrote Reuters.

The war in Gaza shows no signs of stopping, either, as an Israel-Hamas ceasefire ended. El-Sissi recently called on the international community to recognize a Palestinian state, reported the Arab News. He has already said an independent Palestine should be demilitarized, noted Al Jazeera. Israel would almost certainly reject the former proposal while Hamas would almost certainly reject the latter.

Yet el-Sissi is a winner.

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