Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1397, (7 - 20 June 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1397, (7 - 20 June 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Presidential contract

The speech delivered by President Abdel-Fatah Al-Sisi after he was sworn-in in front of parliament members to begin his second four-year term Saturday provided the key assurances that the majority of Egyptians expected, and can be considered the “presidential contract” with the Egyptian people. Without mincing words, the president admitted that the first four years after he took office were tough, considering the many critical challenges Egypt and the region faced.

After he took over in June 2014, President Al-Sisi had no choice but to tackle several difficult political, economic and social challenges, while at the same time confronting the major threat of terrorism and outlawed extremist organisations that would welcome the disintegration of the state and the country in order to achieve their illusions.

Al-Sisi launched several major national projects aimed at improving the country’s infrastructure, recognising that without such improvements Egypt would never be able to attract investment, or to achieve serious economic growth. He also had the courage to carry out unprecedented economic reforms that were delayed for many years because former regimes cared more about maintaining their stability, rather than facing the people with the reality that the Egyptian economy was near collapse.

Because Al-Sisi was open and transparent, telling the Egyptian people the truth about the dire economic situation and the many threats the country faced, the majority of Egyptians accepted that there was a heavy price to be paid in order to build a better country for future generations.

In his second term, the president, like many ordinary Egyptians, now hopes and aspires that the major reforms carried out over the past four years will begin to bear fruit. Thus, Egyptians were indeed relieved to hear the president pledging that his priority for the coming years will be to “build the Egyptian human being”, launching several national projects to improve education, healthcare and tough living conditions.

On foreign policy, Al-Sisi said he would continue to work on restoring Egypt’s role on the Arab, African and international fronts, while conceding that the recent turbulent years have encouraged other major regional powers to fill in the vacuum. The main pillars of Egypt’s foreign policy would remain the same: maintaining balanced relations with all key world powers, respecting the sovereignty of countries in the region, supporting the national state and warning against creating more wars in the region that would only increase the suffering of its peoples.

However, the most assuring message delivered by Al-Sisi was his declaration that he was committed to remain the “president of all Egyptians”, regardless of political differences, except for those who justify the use of violence and terror to achieve political goals. “The great, grand Egypt has enough room for all of us, with all our differences and cultural heritage,” Al-Sisi said. “Accepting the other, and creating common ground among us will be my main concern in order to achieve consensus, social peace and genuine political development, similar to the economic development achieved,” he pledged in front of parliament members. “There will be no exception from such common ground, except for those who chose violence, terrorism and extreme ideology as a mean to impose their will. Otherwise, Egypt is for all, and I’m a president for all Egyptians, those who agree with me, and those who disagree.”

Shortly after the results of elections were out, the president issued an amnesty for more than 300 young men who were convicted of several crimes related to the political turmoil which Egypt witnessed in recent years. More is expected to come ahead of the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr feast following the holy fasting month of Ramadan. That will send an important message of assurance that the president means what he says in terms of accepting diverse points of views related to his political and economic decisions.

Many challenges indeed lie ahead, but if any more tough decisions were to come, they should be the result of open and frank debate among the country’s institutions and public opinion. The media should be allowed to freely discuss various points of views without fear, particularly as freedom of expression is guaranteed in the constitution, which over 98 per cent of Egyptians supported in early 2014.

When President Al-Sisi’s pledges, listed in his speech, are carried out in the next four years, indeed many Egyptians should expected “the best days to come”, as he promised.

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