Sisi needs to correct course
Close to three years after former president Muhammad Morsi’s overthrow and almost two years since taking office, why is Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi relying on policies that he is well aware tarnish the image of his presidency?
In the vast majority of his speeches, Sisi refers to what he deems to be tireless efforts to improve Egypt’s economic, security and political situation. He seems to believe that the achievements he has made are being overlooked, whether because the impact of them has yet to trickle down to the people or due to the actions of his opponents or even the media failing to put forward a realistic view of what is happening in the country.
This has even prompted him to phone in directly to late-night political talk shows, popular in Egypt, to address the general public directly and confront criticisms that have been made against him. Whatever the reason, it is clear that Sisi has become increasingly frustrated by this situation, hence his repeated allusions in speeches and interviews to “plots” against the country.
Sisi’s proactive defence of his presidency, and his continued support for unpopular polices that leave him open to criticism, indicate confusion at the heart of his administration. There are also reports of conflicts between various political sides, including a fight to control the very information that gets to the president.
So is Sisi suspended between Nasserite and Mubarak modes of thinking? And if so, which is winning out?
This analysis may date back to questions over the “deep state”, an ever-present concept in Egyptian politics, with many believing that Sisi has been forced by circumstances to rely on pillars of the former Mubarak regime. This places him in an awkward position, as it suggests that Sisi is another Mubarak, while his previous reliance on Nasserite discourse and figures also gives the Nasserists a claim on him as well.
It is not really important who is winning or losing, but rather how this is being perceived by the Egyptian people. For now, the Egyptian people seem preoccupied with discussing the people surrounding the president and whether they are up to the job of advising him.
The cynics among us say that this entire line of inquiry aims to protect the president and place the blame for his mistakes on those around him. Another excuse that has been floated is based on the sheer scale of the crises facing Sisi, thereby placing the blame on the former regime.
As for those who want to give Sisi the benefit of the doubt, many believe the deep state is still playing a major role, only its objectives are directly in contrast to those being pursued by Sisi. Many believe that Sisi is now preparing to take action against those who are standing against him.
Sisi cannot wait until public anger hits a peak and he finds himself facing the fate of Mubarak, who was paralysed by indecision until it was too late to offer any concessions and his own people brought him down.
He will not wait to face the fate of Morsi, who was brought down in a similar way to Mubarak — but after just one year in power. In both revolutions, the military stood with the people and played an active role in bringing down the president.
Despite Sisi's popularity since he first entered the political scene, public anger towards his policies are on the rise, while his economic programmes have yet to trickle down to the people.
While the majority of Egyptians do not want to see another revolution, that does not mean the revolution scenario is out of the question.
In that case, Sisi must carry out a mid-presidency course correction in the same way that Sadat did in 1971, when he carried out his Corrective Revolution, purging the Nasserites from power and changing tack on a number of domestic and foreign policies.