El-Sisi faces factious agenda after landslide victory

Gamal Essam El-Din , Saturday 31 May 2014

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is due to be sworn as president next weekend, but analysts say it is yet to be seen how he will handle key internal and external files

Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo courtesy of El-Sisi official Facebook page)

The winner of this week's presidential election, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, is expected to take the oath of office before the High Constitutional Court to become the ninth president of Egypt next weekend.

The move comes after semi-official reports showed that the former military chief had swept presidential polls, held on 26, 27 and 28 May, achieving a landslide victory over his sole rival Hamdeen Sabahi.

Initial vote tallies show that El-Sisi had secured a historic victory, winning around 95 per cent of the vote at around 23 million votes.

Sabahi won a little more than 3 percent of the vote. His vote tally was so low that he was outpaced by invalid ballot papers, which numbered around 1.5 million, or around 4 percent.

El-Sisi's historic margin of votes cleared the simple-majority threshold required to avoid a second run-off round.

According to Abdel-Aziz Salman, spokesman for the Presidential Election Commission (PEC), which is overseeing the election, "the final official results will be announced by PEC's chairman Anwar El-Assi on 3 or 4 June, rather than (as scheduled) on 5 June, which marks the anniversary of Egypt's military setback on that day in 1967."

Article 144 of the new constitution stipulates that "if there is no parliament sitting during the presidential elections, the new president must be sworn in before the High Constitutional Court."

According to sources, El-Sisi will be sworn in before the High Constitutional Court either on the morning of Saturday 7 June, or a few days later. The court, located in Maadi in southern Cairo, is currently headed by Adly Mansour, a senior judge who was named interim president of Egypt after Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted from office on 3 July last year. Mansour's presidency of the court is temporarily suspended while he fulfills the role of head of state.

Rumours were rampant that El-Sisi's swearing-in ceremony would be delayed until 30 June, or after two laws regulating Egypt's upcoming parliamentary elections are ratified by President Mansour. The rumours were quickly dismissed by Mansour's legal advisor, Ali Awad, who denied the possibility of delaying the inauguration of Egypt's new president.

Semi-official sources, however, told Ahram Online: "El-Sisi's swearing-in at Maadi's High Constitutional Court will be followed by an evening  inauguration ceremony to be held at east Cairo's Ittihadiya presidential palace, expected to be attended by a number of foreign leaders, mostly from the Arab world, as well as senior Egyptian politicians, high-ranking officials, and Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, whose cabinet is obliged by the constitution to resign from office after the results of presidential polls are officially announced."

Sources close to El-Sisi's campaign agree that invitations were extended to some Arab leaders such as Jordan's King Abdallah, chairman of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, crown prince of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdel-Aziz, Saudi foreign minister Saud Al-Faisal, president of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, and secretary-general of the Arab League Nabil El-Araby.

Officials from El-Sisi's campaign also stressed that his historic victory was highly welcomed by a number of world leaders. They refer with particular interest to a phone call from Russia's president Vladimir Putin. A public statement by the Russian presidency on 30 May expressed Putin's congratulations to El-Sisi for his "convincing" victory in last week's presidential election, and said that the two state leaders "agreed to maintain active contacts and exchange visits at the top level."

When El-Sisi visited Russia in February as Egypt's minister of defence, he was highly welcomed by Putin, who told him: "I know you have decided to run for president and I wish you luck on my own behalf and that of the Russian people."

Mohamed Salmawy, head of the Egyptian Writers Union and spokesman for the committee which drafted Egypt's recently-passed constitution, believes that "Putin's very early phone call with El-Sisi is very significant because it sends a very important message to America and the West that Russia is about to regain its former strong relations with Egypt during El-Sisi's presidency."

Egypt and Russia reached a military agreement few months ago, with different sources reporting that Saudia Arabia and UAE have footed the bill for an Egyptian purchase of Russian military equipment, estimated at $2 billion.

Salmawy describes the reaction of the USA, and the West in general, to Egypt's post-Morsi political roadmap through the election of El-Sisi as very negative. "Not only did you have a Western media highly biased and hostile to the post-Morsi Egypt and new president-elect El-Sisi, but also Western officials who always put pre-conditions for admitting the new status quo in Egypt," said Salmawy.

Other analysts, like political analyst Emad Gad of the Al-Ahram research centre, see some recent positive change of tone from American officials towards El-Sisi. Gad refers in particular to US President Barack Obama's recent speech before a US military academy on 28 May. Obama said "in countries like Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests, from peace treaties to Israel to shared efforts against violent extremism….So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government, but we can and will persistently press for reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded."

Gad notes that Obama's remarks about reforms in Egypt are vague and that they are significantly different from his previous ones in which he stipulated that the post-Morsi government achieves "an inclusive democracy" in order for his administration to resume its military assistance to Egypt.

Salmawy and Gad agree that by the words "inclusive democracy," Obama and other Western officials are referring to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, now outlawed in Egypt. Salmawy argues that "if it is so, I think that El-Sisi was clear from the first that the Muslim Brotherhood is finished in Egypt and he will never extend a hand of reconciliation to a terrorist group."

Salmawy argues that El-Sisi's victory is historic. "He got ten million votes more than Morsi got in 2012 (13 million) and this puts his new legitimacy on strong foundations and gives him a blank cheque to draw the next political map of Egypt, and he was clear when he said that those who  will vote for him will vote against any future role for Muslim Brotherhood," said Salmaway, concluding that "as a result, the historic vote he got deals a deafening blow to this group and to the allegations of its officials that it holds political legitimacy to rule in Egypt." 

But Gad argues that while El-Sisi was clear that Muslim Brotherhood has no future in Egypt's politics, he was also keen to refrain from issuing provocative statements against the USA and the West's pre-conditions.

"He even emphasised that Egypt needs the help of the US in its war against militant Islamists and that America will not be replaced by Russia as a new strategic partner," said Gad, adding that: "at the same time I think that El-Sisi will face strong internal popular pressure to allow Russia to be a counterweight force against America in Egypt."

"There is a strong popular will that Egypt's El-Sisi forge closer relations with other world powers like Russia and China and that this strongly goes in favour of the country's national security and helps nullify the West's pre-conditions for reconciliation with the Brotherhood," said Gad, who expects there to be stronger cooperation between Egypt, Algeria and the military leaders in Libya in fighting any future role for the Muslim Brotherhood in north Africa.

El-Sisi's campaign also refers to welcoming remarks from Algeria's president Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika, who sent a message of congratulations. Gad believes that the message reflects a shared growing sense in both Egypt and Algeria of the dangers of Islamist rule  in Libya, and that there must be stronger security cooperation between the two countries to stem this tide. "There is a worrying concern in both Egypt and Algeria that Libya could be used by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda as a front for launching terrorist attacks against the two countries," said Gad.

In internal terms, all agree that a politically fractious agenda awaits El-Sisi. Two new laws aimed at regulating the upcoming parliamentary elections are expected to be the first headache for the new president-elect. The two laws, whose drafts were announced on 24 May, aim to raise the total number of new parliament's seats from 508 to 630 and stipulate that 80 percent of seats be contested via the individual candidacy system, and 20 percent via party lists.

Mahmoud Fawzi, a spokesman for a technical committee which took charge of drafting the two laws, said the drafts were referred to the State Council on Saturday, to be revised in legal and constitutional terms. Fawzi said that political factions were highly divided over the new two draft laws.

Most political forces which came into being after the 25 January Revolution, which overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak, said they are categorically against the two drafts, insisting that the number of seats contested by party lists be increased from 20 per cent to 50 per cent upon the grounds that this helps create a balanced parliament, with most forces represented.

"We will see how El-Sisi will try to reach a consensus over these two laws, without facing early accusations that he is working to serve certain factions at the expense of others," said Gad.

Egypt's eight presidents:

Mohamed Naguib (July 1952 - November 1954)

Gamal Abdel-Nasser (November 1954 – September 1970)

Anwar El-Sadat (October 1970 – October 1981)

Sufi Abu Taleb (7 October 1981 – 14 October 1981)

Hosni Mubarak (October 1981 – February 2011)

Hussein Tantawi (February 2011 – June 2012)

Mohamed Morsi (June 2012 – July 2013)

Adly Mansour (July 2013 – June 2014)


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