Egypt: Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s election, the return of the military to the power

While media all over the world are greeting Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s electoral victory as an obvious result, no one is able to foresee what the future President will bring to the land of Pharaohs. To be certain is that the electoral result made an end to the process of democratic transition started after the fall of Hosni Mubarack in 2011 and with the ascent of Mohamed Morsi, the first Egyptian President to be democratically elected.

Paradoxically, to oust Morsi, was his Minister of Defense and army chief, who would have been also the actual President of Egypt. In fact, since the army toppled Morsi’s government in July 2013, Al Sisi has established a de facto government even if this was officially held by Adly Mansour, appointed by Sisi himself as the interim President[1]. After the overthrow of the former president, the image of the field-marshal has gained so much popularity that the “hated general” has turned into a “national hero”[2]. Millions of posters, t-shirts and gadgets of any type illustrating Sisi have invaded the country and several manifestations in his honor have been organized by his supporters. Besides, the official government propaganda has strongly contributed to Sisi’s exaltation, creating a sort of a personality cult.

His popularity was so high that he did not even have to organize an elaborated political campaign. Not only he avoided public appearances, but he also presented some bullet points instead of a complete program for the future of the country[3]. Nonetheless, Sisi won over 96% of vote in the presidential ballot against his only rival, the socialist Hamdeen Sabbahi who obtained only 3,3%.

However, the high percentage reported by Sisi cannot be explained only in terms of his popularity among citizens. His overwhelming victory is related also to the wide range of his supporters. Not just the powerful Egyptian army backed him up during the election, but several businessmen who own the press. Furthermore, the Nour Party , the political wing of the conservative group Salafi Da’wa, decided to endorse Sisi in the presidential elections[4]. The rival party of the Muslim Brotherhood was the only major Islamist party who took part in the process of redrafting the constitution in 2012.

Another reason justifying Sisi’s election is the need for stability and security. After three years of political turmoil, it seems that Egyptians consider Sisi as the strongman able to restore peace and order in their country.

However, the election of the former chief of the Egyptian military intelligence, acclaimed as the “first patriotic elected president”[5], is not free from criticism. Although officials documents claimed that turnout has been 48%[6], international observers reckon that the actual figure has been inflated in order to show Sisi’s social acceptance. According to Takamol Masr the real percentage of voters has been 10%-15% , despite the government has threatened no-voters with a large fine, has introduced a last minute public holiday and has extended the voting to a third day[7]. All of these measures, especially the extension were considered “the latest in a series of unusual steps that have seriously harmed the credibility of the process”[8] .

What is clear is that the election took place in a political environment stigmatized by a strong crackdown on dissent that brought to the elimination of Sisi’s opponents such as the Muslim Brotherhood, declared a terroristic organization. To have an idea of the repression perpetrated by the military, it is enough to say that since the coup d’état the number of people arrested for crimes of opinion amounts to 41.163[9]. Under these circumstances, the Muslim Brotherhood as well as other opposition activisits have made several pleas to abstention, causing a lower turnout. Not going to vote became the only means to make opposition to a regime, guilty of violence against those people who do not share the same political ideas. Therefore, many international observers such as Democracy International have pointed out that military repression has made a genuinely democratic election impossible.

Despite irregularities, Sisi was sworn in as president on Sunday, June 8, swearing “to protect the republican system, to respect the constitution and the law, to safeguard the people’s interests, and to preserve the independence of the nation and the unity of its lands.”[10] However, the new President inherited a country sinking in a disastrous economic situation. He will have to face the same issues that caused the fall of his predecessors. For this reason, some analysts are convinced that his popularity could soon vanish, causing a decline of the Sisi-mania.

Among the problems that are affecting the country, the most alarming is the energy crisis. Egypt’s fuel production is not sufficient to meet the domestic demand and because of its low foreign currency reserves it cannot afford to buy enough from overseas. The only solution to decrease the demand and to save state’s money could be cutting fuel subsidies, but this measure might also cause the social discontent of the poorest. According to Sisi, whose economic plan was unclear until the week of the election, it is important to work on two directions: dismantling the energy subsidies and encouraging businessmen’s contribution to provide the “appropriate climate” for attracting direct investments. Furthermore, the government is willing to support small and medium enterprises(SMEs) which could produce foreign currency[11].

However, the real challenge the new President has to consider is how to control political opposition, first of all the Muslim Brotherhood. Although he has banned this organization, the influence of the Major Islamist party is undoubtedly strong among citizens and could threaten the political stability in every moment. Secondly, the jihadist militants’ insurgency in the Sinai peninsula against the police and the army increases the insecurity within the country, fostering a political environment based on fear.

In an country extremely troubled like Egypt, military imposition and repression cannot guarantee by themselves a long-term political stability. Immediate reforms meeting citizens expectations are now necessary, otherwise what seems a simple political discontent could turn into another massive protest able to overthrow the last government established in Egypt.

Claudia Conticello

Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)

[1] Patrick Kingsley, “Egypt’s Sisi sworn in as president”, The Guardian, 8 June 2014,

[2] Alessandro Accorsi e Sergi Cabeza, “Sisi alla conquista dell’Egitto. Da odiato generale a eroe popolare: “E’ l’uomo forte che ridarà stabilità”,

[3]“ Egypt’s election, The new man’s daunting challenge”, The Economist, 24th may 2014,

[4] Basil El-Dabh, Islamist Al-Nour Party backs Al-Sisi, Daily News Egypt, 2nd May 2014

[5] State-owned Al-Akhbar’s front page calls Sisi the “first patriotic elected president”

[7] Patrick Kingsley, “Abdel Fatah al-Sisi won 96.1% of vote in Egypt presidential election, say officials”,

[8] Democracy International, an International observer who monitored the election.

[9] Source : Wiki Thaura.

[10] Patrick Kingsley,“Egypt’s Sisi sworn in as president”, the Guardian,June 8 2014,

[11] Doaa Farid, “Al-Sisi unveils economic plan”, June 9 2014, DailyNews Egypt,

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More