Why Egyptians voted for Sisi

May 28, 2014


Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is set to win the presidential elections in Egypt this week, almost a year after Egypt’s military reasserted formal control following widespread revolts against Mohamed Mursi.

While a popular uprising preceded the military’s intervention last June, the counter-revolutionary crackdown that followed over the past nine months has soured many Egyptians against the current order. So why is Sisi going to be Egypt’s next president, and why would the same Egyptians who ousted Hosni Mubarak now clamor for another authoritarian military man to take power, rather than support a more inclusive democratic process? Is the clock being turned back?

Few observers outside Egypt understand the reason for Sisi’s popularity, which is based largely on the desire for security. Many Egyptians feel that the country has become chaotic: if forced to choose between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, they prefer the military. While both are authoritarian organizations, the military has more experience, national loyalty, and respect for Egypt as a country, rather than part of a wider pan-Islamic region. Its view of Islam is more mainstream.

Many Egyptians also see the military as better-equipped to improve the country’s struggling economy. It controls as much as 40 percent of the Egyptian economy, through military-run factories, food production factories and land ownership. Currently, the country depends on aid from Gulf nations, while crucial sectors like tourism are suffering. Reserves are quickly running out. Yet the problem, according to some observers, is that this perception of the military’s economic might is a mirage, and that the army actually has a long history of economic mismanagement.

sisi88The violence in neighboring Syria and Libya that turned into armed Islamist insurgencies has also had an impact on voters. Because these countries have suffered from armed revolutions against military regimes, many Egyptians believe that the present order is far better than the scenarios that have played out next door. They would prefer the state to offer some semblance of order and unity — even if it is a mirage.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which, following the ouster of Mubarak, was seen as an appealing alternative, is a less attractive option for a number of reasons. It has threatened a moderate version of Islam that is valued by Egyptians. And when the group assumed power in June 2012, it was unable to address Egypt’s deep structural problems — ranging from endemic corruption, to chronic unemployment, to deep religious divisions — choosing instead to stack the country’s institutions with its members and strike deals with the military. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood was stymied by the “deep state” — Mubarak’s old regime and its allies in business, the media and the military — at every turn.

Egyptians who suffer from the country’s brutish internal security services — and are routinely arrested for protesting, reporting the news, supporting Sisi’s political opponents or appearing “Islamist” — favor neither side. For these citizens — who include jailed journalists, and victims of torture in police custody — life resembles the days of Mubarak, if not worse. They have largely boycotted the elections and dismissed them as a farce.

Yet for pro-Sisi Egyptians, a vote for their candidate is a vote against chaos — until, one hopes, forward-thinking revolutionary groups, together with allies in civil society, can offer an alternative.

PHOTOS: Supporters of Egypt’s former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hold a poster of him and wave flags in Tahrir square in Cairo May 27, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany 

Presidential candidate and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gestures after casting his ballot in Cairo, May 26, 2014. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh 




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But Sisi isn’t all that popular as he says he is. According to approval surveys such as those conducted by Pew and Zugby, he only has perhaps half the population’s favor at most. It’s not much more than Morsi.

I don’t see how such a divisive leader will secure Egypt when the other half not only hates his guts, but won’t even recognize the legitimacy of this election and the results it garners from low turnout and the embarrassing push to extend voting a 3rd day (which in a way, was an admission by the government that they didn’t seal the numbers they wanted for Sisi in order to demonstrate he represents the will of the people).

Posted by rutgurt | Report as abusive

Because his opposition didn’t voted.

Posted by mwab | Report as abusive

Considering the Military was holding back the MB, I suspect they also fermented rebellion (although the MB didn’t need any help in causing unrest anyway). Then the Military supported the overthrow of the elected government so that Egypt could basically return to military rule. The difference is that now the regime understands that it cannot trust the US to back up the leadership; I suspect they will be turning to Russia or China for backing now.

Posted by stevedebi | Report as abusive

Ok, Sisi has no popularity in Egypt. About 6 millions voted for him.
However many in west wish for this popularity. Sisi is backed by US Europe etc….MB is backed by the majority in Egypt(11 months demonstrations continue). I believe Egypt will explode very soon, and there will be Nato military intervention to defend military rule in Egypt. This will trigger an regional war in Middle East…

Posted by saleh237 | Report as abusive

When a big segment (and perhaps not even 50%) of your population is essentially in a cult, it’s difficult to have stability. Much like the US who has had this facist tendency lately because of the dillusional view of reality that many Christians have. We will get around to destroying ourselves too. When all of life must be lived for what comes after death, life is degraded to what the religious leaders desire for their aggrandizement.

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

History shows that strong leaders are the best for stabilizing their countries.
Tourism WAS a big income source for all the middle class Egyptians. Mursi chased it all out with false claims, terrorism and sharia law. Look at Iran. Without oil, they would be like Haiti.
As we rich countries know “Money Talks”. Sisi could bring it all back.

Posted by Doc62 | Report as abusive

Egypt has voted to move from one strong man to another. Nice try, but how sad that their ‘revolution’ has brought nothing more than ‘more of the same.’ How many years before The Egyptians feel another ‘uprising’ necessary? Stay tuned……………

Posted by euro-yank | Report as abusive