Watani International goes to press this week as Egyptians hold their breath in anticipation of the result of the public vote on the new Constitution. So far, indicators point strongly to an overwhelming approval of the charter which should work to guide the country to a bright future of stability and prosperity.
Time to rejoice
Egyptians headed in droves to the ballots on Tuesday and Wednesday 14 – 15 January to vote despite vicious threats and attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to sabotage the referendum. Yet the climate in the majority of polling stations was one of rejoicing; voters sang patriotic songs, many waved Egyptian flags, women ululated—ululations are musical, trilling vocal sounds by the tongue typically made by Egyptian women on happy occasions. Everyone was there to vote, young and old, men and women, even aged persons and those with disabilities, and mothers who wouldn’t be left behind and who went to the polls carrying their babies or holding their toddlers.
But not everyone was happy. After having announced a boycott of the referendum, the MB resorted to ploys such as tearing off posters which called for a ‘Yes’ vote and collecting ID cards from villagers two days before the referendum under the pretext that they would distribute blankets and foodstuffs to the holders of these cards. ID cards are essential for voters to prove their identity.
A few Islamist MB violent demonstrations against the Constitution could not sour the polling. The demonstrators clashed with the police, but the police and army had vowed to secure the balloting process and they kept their promise.
On with the Roadmap
Now that Egyptians have voted in a new consensual Constitution, it is time for the following step on the Roadmap to Egypt##s future, presidential elections. The Roadmap was jointly drawn on 3 July 2013 by the military, the civil forces from across the spectrum of the Egyptian political scene, the Islamic Salafi Nour Party, and representatives of Egyptian women, the Islamic institution of al-Azhar, and the Egyptian Church. That was the date on which Major General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi announced that Egypt would charge ahead with a plan for the future forged by all sectors of its community, in the wake of the 33-million strong mass protest by Egyptians on 30 June 2013 demanding the overthrow of the MB regime and the Islamist President Muhammad Mursi.
The original Roadmap had stipulated that parliamentary elections would follow the establishment of a new constitution to replace the Islamist Constitution pushed through in 2012 by the Mursi regime, to be followed by presidential elections. However, the new Constitution made provision for holding presidential elections first, a move widely approved by Egyptians in view of the current widespread terrorism by the Islamist MBs and the poor security situation. Egyptians do not wish for the MB terrorism to jeopardise parliamentary elections, and realise that presidential elections would pose less of a hazard.
Time for new president
The uprising on 25 January 2011 led the longtime President Hosni Mubarak to step down, and Egyptians sought to a new regime and new president. Many in Egypt decided to give the MB who were then widely regarded as men of Allah an opportunity, and an Islamist majority Parliament was voted in in January 2012.
The MB had until the January 2011 revolution been banned from political activity according to Egyptian law which banned religious groups from politics, but the law was changed in the wake of the revolution. The Islamists’ performance in Parliament was so disappointing, however, that when it was time for presidential elections in May 2012 the MB’s Mursi won by a narrow majority under shady circumstances; the results of this election are still being contested in court. Mursi##s performance on all fronts was again severely disappointing to Egyptians, but it was especially his Islamist priorities which preceded Egyptian loyalty that drove Egyptians to oust him on 3 July 2013, one year on his being in office. The then head of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, was sworn in as interim president.
So now it is time for Egyptians to contemplate a new president. Even though Sisi has not explicitly declared his intentions to run for the post, many in Egypt can see no one but him to lead the country through the critical time that lies ahead. Some fear that the widespread adulation of Sisi carries the potential of making a dictator out of him, but a substantial majority of Egyptians see in him the deliverer from the MB oppressive rule and the strong man they need today to confront Islamist and international powers which appear to be interested in an Islamist Egypt, an option Egyptians have voted against with their feet.
Obligation to run
On Facebook, a number of pages were created and named after Major General Sisi. Among them are Sisi Ra’eessi (Sisi is my president), Hamlet daam al-Sisi ra’eessan li-misr (The campaign to support Sisi as president of Egypt), al-Sisi zaim al-umma (Sisi, the leader of the nation), and Sisi Gamal Abdel-Nasser. A campaign on Facebook posts photos of Sisi along with some of his most famous quotes such as when, speaking for the army, he told the Egyptian people “You are the light of our eyes”, and “Egypt is the mother of the world and will be as great as the world.”
A new movement which supports Sisi for president and which calls itself al-Shaab Ya’mur (The People Commands) aims at collecting signatures to commission the Defence Minister to run for president. Ibrahim Ouda, secretary-general of the movement, called upon the political forces to hold on against the MB whom he described as “the groups of violence, aggression and treason” by backing General Sisi in his run for president in accordance with the people’s will. He added that this has become an “obligation, a religious duty and a military command” which Sisi must obey.
The young speak out
On the street in Cairo, the 16-year-old Monica Fadel, told Watani that Egyptians are fed up with the seemingly endless transitional period and that she is in favour of Sisi as president; “he alone can secure future stability for the country,” she says.
Fadel’s view was echoed by many young people approached by Watani. Among them is John Waheed, 24, who believes there is wide popular demand for Sisi to run, and that this should translate into a campaign to persuade him to do so. Such a campaign, Waheed says, should refute MB claims that Sisi had last July orchestrated a ‘coup’ against legitimacy with the aim of usurping the presidency.
Rafiq Talaat, 26, wants Sisi as president but fears the Major General may be irreplaceable as Defence Minister. So does Mina Ramzy, 28, who says the Defence Ministry is Egypt’s “shield” against foreign or domestic threats.
For her part, Theresa Shenouda, 22, sees that Sisi’s role in the 30 June Revolution was an act of true patriotism, but fears he is now being “idolised”.
Standing up to the US
Many human rights activists support Sisi’s presidential run. Writer and politician Girgis Bishay, member of the international union for the Arab press and media advisor with al-Kalima Center for Human Rights, says he would back Sisi’s run for president. “The reasons are numerous,” Bishay says, “Sisi is a singular military and intelligence man, patriotic to the bone, and makes the right decision at the nick of time.” He sees in Sisi a man whose love for Egypt and bravery led him to respond to the demands of the Egyptian people on 30 June and overthrow Mursi and his MB regime and save Egypt from civil war. The MB were in an international alliance that was practically working to ruin Egypt and turn it into part of a worldwide Islamic caliphate, but Sisi foiled this plan and threw the international MB powers and their supporters into disarray. “General Sisi is the right man at this point in time,” Bishay says, “especially given that the US and the global organisation of the MB could be plotting against the Egyptian people.”
Human rights activist Nevine Girgis, head of the fact-finding committee in the Movement for Defence of Egyptian Women, cannot agree more. “He was the only person who was bold enough to stand up to the US and the terrorist MBs.”
General Sisi is also backed by media figures. TV director Baher Sabry sees Sisi as the only person on the political scene to be counted on to lead Egypt, especially given the bitter disillusionment of the public with such political figures as Mohamed ElBaradei who is widely seen as an American pawn or others who had run for the presidency before and who are now seen as lacking in powerful decision-making.
Man with combat skills
Muhammad Hendi, head of the Egyptian Union of Workers and Farmers, believes that Egypt is now going through a new democratic experience—a tough one—in which she needs to keep global, especially western, powers from interfering in her affairs. “Only a man with combat skills can stop the planned terrorist attacks against Egypt. There is no other way then but for Sisi to be president to defend our land and people against ominous terrorist plots.”
Sisi has the advantage of being young compared to other potential presidential candidates, says Maged Moussa, member of Modern Egypt Party; and it is a proved fact that the military institution is beyond any doubt a bastion of patriotism.
Security expert General Ali Zein al-Abideen believes that the Egyptian people support Sisi’s presidential bid because they see in him a citizen who loves his country and puts its best interest first. The head of the State is its icon. What is needed is a president who would restore Egypt’s international prestige, recover the country’s looted wealth, and achieve a social balance between the rich and poor. In brief, the people want Sisi as president to make Egypt rise from the ashes. The people don’t care whether their president is civilian or a military man; in fact, most Egyptian leaders throughout history belonged to the military institution. The one thing that matters is that this person works for Egypt’s better future.
From the heart
On alhayat.com, the writer Amina Khairy wrote that Sisi is not just the Defence Minister who saved Egypt from the grip of the MB or gained the love of millions of Egyptians. Egyptians would have never imagined, according to Khairy, that the day would come when they would buy his pictures or print banners to thank him and venerate him. The last thing they had in mind was to rally and establish movements not in support of particular election candidates but rather to demand this specific man to become their president. They never imagined that someone declines running for president and that they would be the ones to force him into it.
“Refusing is not in the books and refraining is unacceptable; we will settle for nothing but for him to run for president. He is our hope for salvation.” No matter how weird these words may appear, Khairy says, they have become all-too-common. Some may think they reek of falsity, but they are indeed genuine and come from the people’s hearts.
“Sisi is now the codeword to Egypt’s road towards either a brighter or darker future and he is the key to some people’s heaven but also to other people’s hell.”
17 January 2014