Charting Egypt’s priorities

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 2 Apr 2024

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was sworn in for his third term on Tuesday.

Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi


After winning a new presidential term with 89.6 per cent of the vote in December’s presidential election, incumbent Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi took his new oath of office on Tuesday at the House of Representatives in the New Administrative Capital.

Fighter jets flew overhead during the ceremony, releasing smoke in the colours of the national flag, and there was a 21-gun salute as Al-Sisi, 70, approached parliament in his motorcade.

After taking the constitutional oath, Al-Sisi delivered a 15-minute speech in which he promised that protecting the safety and security of Egypt and its people will remain his top priority and warned that the nation must stand united if it is to overcome the challenges it faces.

“In the past we stood together to defend our homeland against extremism, destruction, and collapse… we must maintain the cohesion of our nation and the solidarity of our people,” said Al-Sisi.

He listed seven objectives for his new term in office. Safeguarding Egypt’s national security in a volatile region topped the list. At a time when “the forces of evil seek to shake our internal stability” he promised that “Egypt will continue to play its indispensable role in furthering stability, security, peace and development.”

Turning Egypt into a modern democratic state was number two in the list of priorities.

“I vow to complete the National Dialogue and implement all dialogue recommendations in the political, economic, and social spheres in order to strengthen political and democratic participation, particularly among the youth,” he said.

Egypt, continued the president, is in a race against time as the world witnesses new scientific, technological, political, and economic developments “and must remain committed to adopting strategies that can maximise Egypt’s human resources by improving the quality of education and completing the expansion of universal health insurance.”

Al-Sisi promised to work to reinforce the resilience of the Egyptian economy in the face of global crises and external shocks and foster sustainable economic growth by “reinforcing the role of the private sector as a partner in the development process” and “increasing agricultural land to achieve food security and boost exports to generate much-needed foreign exchange”.

He promised comprehensive institutional reform and sound governance that will lead to fiscal discipline by rationalising public spending, and vowed to double sovereign revenues, turn Egypt into an international hub for new and renewable energy and green hydrogen, and maximise the economic role of the Suez Canal.

The state will also reinforce social safety nets and increase spending on social support programmes by “increasing cash subsidies to the Takaful and Karama programmes and fully implementing the Decent Life initiative that aims to improve living conditions in rural Egypt.”

The state will also focus on completing the fourth generation of new cities, implementing the strategic plan for urban development, improving living conditions in informal communities, and developing a House for All Egyptians programme targeting youth and limited-income families.

President Al-Sisi’s new presidential term begins against a complex regional and international backdrop, including regional turmoil caused by the war in Gaza. Ahmed Al-Awadi, head of parliament’s National Security Committee, told reporters that Israel’s intention to launch a ground attack on the Palestinian city of Rafah represents a serious threat to Egypt and “could push an influx of Palestinian refugees into Sinai”. Al-Awadi also warned that escalating tensions between Israel and Iran’s regional proxies — Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen — could yet translate into a wider regional conflict.

Al-Awadi expects the new presidential term to see more focus on reinforcing political participation, openness, and democratisation. “These are the best guarantees to keep Egypt stable and united in the face of regional and international crises,” he said.

Aida Nassif, deputy chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed promises that the National Dialogue’s recommendations on political reform would be implemented.

“In his speech, President Al-Sisi promised to turn Egypt into a modern democratic state through comprehensive political, legislative, legal and economic reforms,” she said, adding that “it was because of this promise that the majority of Egyptians decided to re-elect President Al-Sisi.”

Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, deputy chairman of parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee, said combating inflation and ending monopolies will be a major task of President Al-Sisi’s third term.

“The shortage of much-needed foreign exchange and soaring inflation rates of the last two years have caused great difficulties for the majority of citizens,” said Abdel-Hamid. He is hopeful that the recent influx of foreign exchange in the form of financial support packages from the IMF, the EU, and World Bank will help the government control the dollar market and reduce inflation.

MP Mustafa Bakri believes that the appointment of a new government of experienced and effective cabinet ministers is needed to oversee the political and economic reforms promised by President Al-Sisi in his inauguration speech.

Speculation has grown over whether Al-Sisi’s inauguration will be followed by the resignation of the eight-year-old government of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli and on Friday Bakri said in a TV programme that he expects the government to resign.

“Though the constitution does not stipulate the government resign following the president’s swearing-in ceremony… Al-Sisi’s new term is likely to start with some new faces at the helm of ministries and other government bodies,” said Bakri.

Suggesting that the old economy ministry could be resurrected, Bakri added: “We want an economy minister tasked with tackling issues related to foreign exchange, the stock market and coordination with the central bank.” The economy ministry was scrapped under Hosni Mubarak in 1999.

Opposition MP Diaaeddin Dawoud accused the Madbouli government of plunging Egypt into a series of economic setbacks and running up foreign debts of $165 billion.

“For Egypt to move forward with serious economic and political reforms the bureaucratic and spendthrift government of Mustafa Madbouli must be replaced with a more experienced one that can control inflation, reduce debt and achieve fiscal discipline and economic recovery,” he said.

MP Abdel-Moneim Imam, secretary-general of parliament’s Budget Committee and chairman of the opposition Adl (Justice) Party, is optimistic that more political prisoners will be released. “Political reform will be meaningless without greater democratisation and the release of all political prisoners,” said Imam.

The presidency was scheduled to begin its move to the new capital following Al-Sisi’s inauguration ceremony, leading Khaled Abbas, CEO of the Administrative Capital for Urban Development, to say that “from now on, state affairs, including the presidency, will all be managed from the New Administrative Capital.”


* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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