Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1387, (29 March - 4 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Challenges ahead

Many challenges lie ahead after President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi apparently starts his second, four-year term. The scene of millions of Egyptians lining up in front of polling stations to cast their vote in an election whose result is near certain only confirms such high expectations. Those Egyptians are simply telling the president that they support him for a second term despite the difficult security and economic situation because they expect better and more promising times ahead, especially following the many major improvements that he managed to oversee over the past four years.

Since he took office, President Al-Sisi has taken many tough economic decisions such as freeing the price of the Egyptian pound versus foreign currencies, restructuring the subsidy system which increased the price of fuel and electricity, and imposed new taxes. While this certainly added to the economic hardships which millions of Egyptians face, they were aware that these were inevitable decisions in order to restart the Egyptian economy after very difficult years following the removal of former president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, and the popular revolt against the Muslim Brotherhood’s short, one year in office on 30 June 2013.

The Brotherhood responded to the popular backlash against them with a wave of terror attacks, and the cowardly attempt to assassinate Alexandria’s security chief this week, only 48 hours before the beginning of the voting in presidential elections, confirmed that the use of violence and terror remains their key strategy. Nevertheless, the security situation has improved tremendously, with far less terror attacks over the past year. Feeling the pressure, terrorist groups such as IS resorted to attacking soft targets, including churches and mosques, killing innocent worshippers and civilians. Such brutal, inhumane and indiscriminate killing further united Egyptians behind President Al-Sisi’s determination to wipe out terror groups in northern Sinai and indeed, throughout Egypt. Launching Operation Sinai 2018 a few weeks before Egyptians headed to the polls was a clear message that the fight will go on to keep Egyptians safe in a very volatile region.

Meanwhile, terror attacks did not distract Al-Sisi from recognising the vital need to improve the country’s infrastructure which is necessary to put the country’s economy on a stable course that would allow for serious improvement in the living standards of Egyptians. Electricity is no longer a major concern for Egyptians after billions of Egyptian pounds were spent to provide new, advanced power stations, and the success in carrying out major gas explorations that will provide Egypt’s needs without being forced to spend billions of dollars on gas imports. Many new roads were built for civilian use and commercial purposes. If the country was to ever witness a boom in trade and exports, it certainly needed better roads, ports and airports.

Therefore, what the majority of Egyptians hope for is that the next four years would not only witness more achievements on the ground in terms of economic reform and improving the infrastructure, but that they would also be able to benefit from the fruits of what has already been achieved. Egyptians badly need more investment on education, health care, finding jobs and improving incomes and living conditions. Indeed, the president always needs to think of the future, but the Egyptian people who experienced very difficult conditions over the past five years also deserve to feel some improvements in their lives right now.

In his expected second term, and after achieving better security and an improved economy, Egyptians also expect that they will enjoy more political rights and freedom of expression. President Al-Sisi said in a recent interview that he had very much hoped that he would have “three, four of five respected candidates” running against him in the three-day elections that started on Monday. That will certainly happen in four years if Egyptians feel that they are enjoying their rights to freely join political parties and express their views without fear of negative consequences. It is in the interest of Egypt, after all, to debate policies and priorities, and that can only be done if there is an atmosphere of freedom which President Al-Sisi pledged in his recent statements that he would work hard to provide.

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