By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | January 28, 2014
With Egypt’s General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi – now Field Marshall Sisi – clearing all hurdles on his way to become the country’s next president, it’s apparent Egypt is undergoing a turnabout in its attempt to break with military rule. If he wins the presidential elections, Field Marshall Sisi will become Egypt’s sixth president and its fifth from the ranks of the military.
Barely three years ago, Egyptians took to the streets – losing limb and life – in a show of citizen power that marveled the world, and after a lot of bloodshed managed to dislodge the then President Hussein Mubarak’s grip on power. There was a lot of hope then that with the Arab Spring, Egypt, as many other countries in the Arab world, was experiencing a new dispensation. But breaking with the past is not an easy task especially for nations that have lived for long under authoritarian regimes.
And as Field Marshall Sisi takes carefully calculated steps, a new era of military backed governance is slowly dawning on the country. Only history will tell how much of the baggage from the military Field Marshall Sisi will bring to the presidency.
To say Egyptians have completely abandoned the awakening of the past three years would be a fallacy: Egyptians now feel empowered to protest and question the state of affairs. And this is what makes Field Marshall Sisi’s leadership rather precarious. As a military backed leader, how much will he promote liberty, freedom and democracy? Will he tolerate freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the free exchange of ideas?
With the Muslim Brotherhood already undergoing a nerve chilling purge at Field Marshall Sisi’s behest, how much more will he be willing to go to stamp out anything deemed to threaten Egyptian statehood? In the absence of a political compromise, Muslim Brotherhood will continue to function in the shadows utilizing violence to make its voice heard. Of course, there is a danger that anyone perceived to sympathize with the Muslim Brotherhood will come under fire. Already, some alternative voices in Egypt are coming under threat. But, for now, Field Marshall Sisi has the people’s support.
In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Egypt has failed to find the stability that many expected. If anything, the country turned torpsy turvy. It is hardly surprising that many people are turning a man in uniform to bring back normalcy to the state of disorder in the country.
Seen by many Egyptians as the country’s savior, Field Marshall Sisi may be carrying too many expectations on his shoulders which may all come back to haunt him if he fails to deliver. But the economy – it is always the economy, stupid – may yet be Field Marshall’s undoing.
“I think the economy eventually will be the undoing of anyone in that position, because all the same issues that led to the 2011 uprising are still there – the youth unemployment, their marginanilization from politics, the overly bloated civil service, the unsustainable food and energy subsidies,” the New York Times quoted Samer S. Shehata, a University of Oklahoma political scientist.
Egyptians will have to wait and see if the “savior” can brign fundamental changes in their lives and livelihoods and turn the country into a thriving democracy.