The World Today for July 10, 2023


The Tiger’s Stripes


Ten years ago on July 3, the Egyptian military under Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi launched a coup against the first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi – a member of the Islamist organization the Muslim Brotherhood, that supporters describe as a religious and social movement but critics call a terrorist organization.

Secular Egyptians, business leaders, and Egypt’s large Christian minority were especially concerned about Morsi’s plans, reported Middle East Eye. Less than a year later, in 2014, el-Sissi won the presidency with more than 95 percent of the vote – a landslide victory that international observers said reflected unfair election rules.

Now Egyptians are growing increasingly disgruntled with el-Sissi, noted the Economist.

The president has been building massive infrastructure projects, including a new $58 billion capital city, to boost the economy, create jobs, and modernize the country. “I believe that this generation who through their effort and patience transported Egypt from chaos and anxiety to stability and security is able to complete its development transformation,” he said recently in a national speech marking his decade in power, according to Reuters.

But the debt service on those projects now accounts for more than half of the country’s budget. Because Egypt depends on Ukraine for wheat and is a net importer of energy, the worldwide inflation stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has hit Egyptians hard, especially the third of the country that lives in poverty, Al Jazeera wrote. The currency has lost half its value. Food costs have increased by 60 percent in the last year.

Knowing that many Egyptians are unhappy, el-Sissi kicked off a national dialogue in early May to let people air their grievances and propose solutions. As the Financial Times explained, the dialogue was a remarkable development. Opposition leaders, human rights activists, and others can speak their minds at a government conference center, with the press in attendance, three days a week. El-Sissi even released 1,000 political prisoners to show good faith.

However, as Agence France-Presse reported, el-Sissi last month also allowed his security services to arrest a new batch of 3,000 opposition leaders and human rights activists, among others. These included football fans whose club played a big role in the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 that ousted Morsi’s predecessor, the autocrat Hosni Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years.

Critics said the new arrests illustrated how the national dialogue was a marketing ploy. Reporters Without Borders, for example, listed journalists who are still rotting in Egyptian prisons despite el-Sissi’s claim that he wants to turn over a new leaf.

The Egyptian president might have grand visions. But they don’t comport with reality.

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