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El Sissi—To Run Or Not To Run

Written by Azza Radwan Sedky

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December 31st, 2013, Al Sayadeen Village, Nuweibaa, along the West side of the Sinai Peninsula—at this tranquil spot, I spent New Year’s Eve, 2014.

Though we’ve enjoyed New Year’s Eve at Al Sayadeen Village for years on end, since December 31st, 2010, and for obvious reasons, Al Sayadeen lovers opted not to venture to the area. This year, however, they decided it was high time they celebrate the festive season at their favourite spot. Desolate for a few years, Al Sayadeen needed the boost and sudden surge of life.

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Photo by: Mariam William

6a0147e36a60a7970b019b04173067970d-800wiPhoto: Mariam William

After spending a few days in the serene atmosphere across from the pristine Aqaba Strait, the guests were ready for an evening of fun and festivity on December 31st. The mood was quite celebratory as the DJ catered for oldie preferences with songs from the 60s and 70s. As in any occasion, some Egyptians were ready to party while others were mere watchers.

With the arrival of the New Year, and after hugs and kisses were exchanged, the DJ added an unusual song to the repertoire of jolly tunes—“Teslam El Ayadia”—aka, “Blessed are the Hands.” This is a patriotic song that celebrates the army and in particular General Abdel Fattah El Sissi for having ousted Morsi and restored hope to his fellow countrymen. The song went viral after June 30th.

What surprised me the most was how the few dancers suddenly became everyone at the event—every single person stood up and began to dance, sing out loud, and cheer. I had never seen Egyptians belly dance to the tunes of a patriotic song before. It was also a Litmus test—a telling tale of how Egyptians felt towards their army and the man they want to run for president.

Next day a discussion ensued between those who wanted El Sissi to run and those who didn’t. The discussion remained civil though, as usual for Egyptians, loud; both groups were content that the Muslim Brotherhood had disappeared off the spectrum; it was the incoming president that they couldn’t agree on.

Of the guests at the village, only two believed that El Sissi should not run, and their reasons were different. One felt that Egypt needed another power to counteract the president’s, that El Sissi provided that balance. She also felt that if El Sissi runs, he will be shooting himself in the foot; not only will he lose personally but also Egypt will lose a vigilant guard.

The other was totally against having a president from the army. To him, an army man, as was the case with Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak, has little knowledge of how to run a country. Though, maybe, agile and fit, such a president was neither learned about diplomacy and international relations nor experienced in governance strategies. He also felt that in the last six months, and after the initial success, El Sissi did not achieve much. The country is still in disarray; the Muslim Brotherhood still wreaking havoc.

But the remaining guests were all in favour of having El Sissi run. Their first reason was obvious: El Sissi has won the admiration and respect of Egypt. If he runs, many other candidates, who may spread the liberal vote thin, will not; Ahmed Shafik has stated clearly that he won’t run against El Sissi. This unified front will, one, win the battle against the Muslim Brotherhood, and two, tell the world that Egyptians are unified in their choice.

Others felt that, because Egyptians have come to respect El Sissi to this extent, they would listen to him, a needed change for the country to move forward. In the last three years, no leader or decision maker, other than El Sissi, has been endowed the respect Egyptians gave to their ex leaders. If El Sissi will tell Egyptians that an action is to their benefit, they will accept his choice. If he will tell them that an option is for their best, they will agree. From this perspective, Egypt would move forward.

This while a few felt that in the last three years no one has been able to prove his competence. Who else, they said? Many Egyptians are capable; however, if such a figure hasn’t risen amidst the calamities Egyptians had faced in recent months, chances are this person will not rise today.

Also, an obvious ramification to El Sissi’s running will be the world’s view of Egyptian matters. The outside world will say, “I told you so—it was a coup, not a revolution, and this was what the army had planned all along.” Personally, though, this is the least of Egypt's challenges; it is truly up to Egyptians to choose their path.

My two cents: I tend to agree with both opinions. A military man may not be our best choice, but El Sissi is, no doubt, highly favoured. From what I see, if El Sissi runs, he will win by a sweeping landslide no matter who runs against him. As for his ability to run the country, we will have to wait and see. It won’t be easy as nothing is easy in today’s Egypt.

Azza Radwan Sedky, retired communications professor, author of Cairo Rewind, the first two years of Egypt's revolution, 2011-2013. She posts her articles on her blog: azzasedky.typepad.com/egypt

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