Bishop Anis welcomes new President Sisi in Egypt

06 June 2014

AP

Dialogue: Hillary Clinton meets Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo last Saturday

Dialogue: Hillary Clinton meets Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo last Saturday

THE President-Bishop in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Mouneer Anis, has welcomed the overwhelming victory of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the recent presidential elections in Egypt. The new President won 23 million of the 25 million votes cast.

In a statement last weekend, Bishop Anis said that his personal opinion was that President Sisi "is the right choice at this time, because Egypt needs a president who can re-establish the security of the country. Without security, tourism and the economic situation will not improve."

He said that the new President, who gave up his post as the army's chief of staff to stand in the elections, would "have to work hard in order to meet the many challenges that are facing Egypt, including the financial situation, and the concerns of those who think that Egypt will be ruled in a military-like way".

Supporters of President Sisi point out that he received ten million more votes than the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi when he was voted into office in 2013. He and the Brotherhood-dominated government were removed from power last July by the military.

Since last July, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters havebeen jailed, and the organisation has been banned. In protest, millions of Brotherhood sympathisers boycotted the election - as did many young Egyptians, who were at the forefront of the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak. In their view, the rise to power of another president backed by the military means that most of the gains of the 2011 uprising have evaporated.

The hope among backers of President Sisi was that the election would see both a landslide victory for their candidate and a huge turnout. They achieved their first aim, but failed in their second. Only 44 per cent of electors went to the polls, even after the authorities had taken the unprecedented step of ordering a third day of voting, giving civil servants the day off, and making public transport free.

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Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the election was that it was conducted with relatively little violence, and few claims of vote-rigging. But the poor turnout is an indication of how the country is split.

There is still clearly a wide gulf between Islamists and secular Egyptians; but now young people with liberal views are increasingly dissatisfied with the style of the military-backed leadership. The latest constitution - replacing the one drawn up during Muslim Brotherhood rule - enshrines the right of military courts to try civilians, and a new law imposes tight restrictions on protests.

President Sisi's biggest test will be to raise the country's economy out of the quagmire. Thus far, he has failed to present a coherent vision of how this is to be done. Unless he can takes steps quickly to improve the quality of life, then millions of Egyptians are likely to take to the streets again in protest. As the columnist Wael Nawara has written: "No president should ever take Egyptians for granted, or treat them like children any more. Ever."

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