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New Egypt leader must recover country’s economy and authority

09:35 | 03.07.2014 | Analytic


3 July 2014. PenzaNews. The new cabinet of Egypt headed by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab took the oath of office on June 17 after Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, former Minister of Defense who organized the 2013 coup d'état, became the next President after the election which took place on May 26-28.

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The country’s new leader earned the support of more than 97% of the voting public, while Hamdeen Sabahi, representative of Egypt’s left movement and his only rival, earned approximately 3%. The turnout for this election, which was extended by one day, amounted to 48%.

During the election campaign, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared that he would place special emphasis on recovering the country’s economy and stabilizing the overall situation, as well as making the “Muslim Brotherhood” Islamist group cease its activities.

According to foreign reporters who provided extensive coverage of the election, the Egyptian people, who celebrated the fall of Hosni Mubarak, welcomed Mohamed Morsi’s oath of office and then demonstrated to have him ousted, now rush to provide assistance to the country’s new leader so that he would finally bring peace and order to the country.

The international analysts suggest that Egypt’s new President perfectly understands the responsibility on his shoulders, and the difficulties he must deal with in order to make a change for the better in the country exhausted by political and financial tempests.

The experts also highlighted the fact that the Egyptian people are tired of poverty, anarchy and terrorist attacks. For example, Atef Hamdy, specialist on the Middle East at “Clingendael,” the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, stressed that the country’s authorities must now work to restore the country’s security, economy and authority.

“Egyptian people and the leadership are revolution-fatigued. With the election of the President, it is now time to work and deal with the real problems of the people. Very important for the government and the President at this stage is to include and incorporate revolutionary voices, particularly the youth and other relevant political actors,” he said in an interview to PenzaNews agency.

According to the expert, in order to achieve that, the new authorities will have to work hard both internally and externally.

“The regime will need to consolidate its legitimacy by delivering. The country can not go on with borrowing and will need to have a well structured economic plan, not easy in a country such as Egypt with a balance of payment deficits and big debts,” Atef Hamdy emphasized.

Speaking of the country’s external policy, he suggested that Abdel Fattah as-Sisi will now pay special attention to relationship with the African countries.

“Egyptians increasingly realize that there is much to offer in Africa that has been very much neglected by the Mubarak regime,” the Middle Asia expert explained.

Hugh Lovatt, Middle East Peace Process project officer for the European Council on Foreign Relations, noted that Egypt led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi may also deepen the ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which are opposite to the “Muslim Brotherhood,” and may potentially establish closer relations with Israel.

At the same time, the expert pointed out that external policies will not be his focus, because internal issues are currently more severe and require immediate solution.

“The President’s main priorities will mostly be domestic in nature, including rescuing the Egyptian economy, as well as delivering on his electoral promise to restore security and stability to the country,” he explained.

However, Hugh Lovatt highlighted the fact that the country’s new leader has not yet presented the plan to achieve these results, and also suggested that Abdel Fattah el-Sisi may try to rally the people against a perceived threat of terrorism or political Islam, should his support begin to decrease.

At the same time, Vladimir Ahmedov, Candidate of Historical Sciences and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies, suggested that the results of the Egyptian election demonstrates the current trend of military people returning onto key positions, which is particularly noticeable in the countries affected during the Arab Spring.

“The Arab revolutions were followed by unprecedented growth of Islamist groups – not just moderate political Islam, but similar to what we now see in Iraq: violent extremist groups. The military are once again brought to the political forefronts as an antidote to such groups,” he explained.

In the expert’s opinion, the military men involved in the current government shuffle are not as revolution-inclined as they were in the 50-s or the 60-s. This, he suggested, makes it possible to presume that Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will refrain from making fundamental changes in the country’s policy.

“He will try to follow the middle-of-the-road policies suitable for Egypt’s current position in the Arab world and in the region as a whole,” Vladimir Ahmedov clarified.

“The regime is currently being formed, and it is unlikely that el-Sisi will establish a military dictatorship. He will more likely try to win the trust of various political forces in order to expand his support among the people and break the image of a military man who came to power,” the Institute of Oriental Studies researcher added.

According to Kamal Sido, the head of Middle East Department of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP), Egypt’s new authorities must not only solve the country’s most severe problems, but also focus on the citizens’ rights and the status of various social groups.

“For us, the organization that protects the rights of minorities, the state of the Coptic Christians – the largest Christian community in the Middle East – is very important,” he clarified.

The expert also added that the authorities must be just during the trials against the members of the “Muslim Brotherhood.”

At the same time, Kamal Sido noted that restoring security and travel industry in the country would help recover the economy.

“If there will be uncertainty with the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ or other Islamist powers within the country, this will negatively affect the travel industry, and el-Sisi and the Egyptian government understand that restoring security will help this sector develop,” he said.

According to the expert, the Egypt’s new President will try to return his country to its previous role in the Arab world.

In his turn, David Butter, Associate Fellow at Chatham House, suggested that Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has no detailed program to save Egypt and especially the economy, which would be impossible to restore in short terms.

“I think from his speech he’d showed that he has not yet really given a lot of thoughts on economy and is stuck in a ‘learning mode’,” the expert explained.

However, he added that Abdel Fattah el-Sisi may start the long-term recovery measures.

At the same time, according to David Butter, the foreign policy will shift towards the country’s Arab neighbors, and Egypt will not keep his ties with Qatar as warm as they were under Morsi, which can be caused by extended financial aid from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

“Of course, Egypt will continue to have good relations with China, with BRICS countries, with Russia, and it will also continue to pay attention to its policy towards Africa,” he said.

Lastly, David Butter added that the closest next test for the Egypt’s new leader is the parliamentary election, where the MPs’ support is vital for governing the country.

“The President will need to have a majority in the new parliament, a bloc that is broadly in favor of him, and this will probably be achieved through the way in which the electoral law is framed. Perhaps a new block led by former colleagues of el-Sisi from the security regime will control the majority in parliament, which will enable him to carry out his policies,” the expert concluded.

On June 3, 2013, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Minister of Defense of Egypt, organized a coup d'état which ended in the overthrow of the previous President Mohamed Morsi as “failing his people,” and the arrests of more than 300 members of the “Muslim Brotherhood” Islamist party.

At the end of March 2014, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced his decision to vacate offices and nominate himself for the presidency.

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