Re-elected, Sisi expected to continue campaign against Muslim Brotherhood
CAIRO - In an address to the nation following official confirmation of his re-election victory, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed to bridge gaps between social groups in the country.
“I promise to be president for all Egyptians, both those who voted for me and those who did not,” Sisi said.
Official election results showed Sisi won re-election with 97% of the vote, a similar share of the vote to his 2014 election victory.
However, experts said that there was sufficient reason to assume that Sisi’s pledge would not include the country’s Islamists and specifically the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated as a terrorist organisation.
“Sisi knows that he only has four more years in the presidency,” said Ahmed Ban, a researcher on political Islam. “He will do everything possible to finish off the Muslim Brotherhood, in particular, and political Islam, in general, before the end of his term.”
Sisi has been waging a war against the Muslim Brotherhood since he became president in 2014, viewing the Brotherhood as being behind terrorist groups such as the Hasm Movement.
Cairo’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood included the jailing of its most senior leadership. Many Brotherhood figures fled and are living in exile in Qatar or Turkey.
Sisi has repeatedly described the Brotherhood as the “most dangerous underground organisation in history” and has even pursued the movement abroad, viewing the group’s presence in neighbouring Libya as a particular threat. Sisi has sent diplomatic and security emissaries to allied governments seeking to convince them of the threat posed by the Brotherhood.
Only the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have followed Egypt in designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. However, there have been talks in several countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, about threats the group represents.
Many expect that Sisi will not only continue his campaign against the Brotherhood but escalate it.
“He wants to make sure that this group will have no more presence on Egypt’s political stage after he leaves the office of president,” said Sameh Eid, another specialist on political Islam.
Muslim Brotherhood member Muhammad Morsi, who became president of Egypt in June 2012, was ousted one year later in a military-backed popular uprising. During his time in office, Morsi exacerbated Egypt’s crises, polarising society, antagonising the judiciary and seeking to impose controversial constitutional amendments.
Following Morsi’s ouster, Brotherhood members and affiliates attacked state institutions, acts that resulted in an ensuing crackdown.
Since then, Cairo alleges that members of the group sought to assassinate political figures and police officers. Egyptian authorities also accused Brotherhood members of joining the Islamic State (ISIS). Cairo initiated Operation Sinai, a large-scale multi-force operation to target ISIS militants across the country, in February.
“Affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood has become a shame for anybody in Egypt,” Ban said. “This is why none of the members of the group can publicly disclose their political affiliations.”