Al Sissi must build a more inclusive Egypt: UAE papers

ABU DHABI: Two of the UAE’s leading English language dailies commented today on the recent announcement of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah El Sisi that he will quit as Egypt’s defence minister so he can run for the presidency.

There is much to commend his candidacy, not least that he alone seems to command the broad support of the people and will be able to provide what Egypt desperately needs: security and stability,” said the Abu Dhabi-based ‘The National’.

However, it continued, rebuilding the economy – a big enough challenge on its own – is just one of the profound tests he will face if, as expected, he becomes president. The country must bounce back to prosperity and do so in a way that all hard-working and entrepreneurial Egyptians stand to benefit from, rather than just the nation’s elite.

He must also reunite Egypt after three tempestuous years in which one of the Arab world’s most entrenched autocrats was overthrown and a replacement elected but then removed from office within a year. This might prove the biggest challenge of all, especially since Field Marshal El Sisi led the military takeover of power from Mohammed Morsi and the crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters. More than 500 of them were sentenced to death this week after trials criticised as neither free nor fair. Hundreds more defendants face a similar fate.

“There is no sensible path available for Egypt other than national reconciliation. For this to succeed – and the alternative is too awful to contemplate – Field Marshal El Sisi must be a president for all Egyptians, and this is intrinsically linked to the prospects for economic recovery.

There remains a need for vigilance about the Brotherhood, an organisation whose allegiance is not to Egypt but to an external agenda. But Field Marshal El Sisi must seek to woo as many as possible of those who were swayed by Mr Morsi’s message about restoring Egypt to democratic rule with economic stability and personal rights,” the paper added.

The paper said Egypt needs a strong figure at the helm at this critical moment, but all involved must accept that this moment will be a transitional one, providing stability and the foundations for a sustained recovery.

“If Field Marshal El Sisi can achieve that, the enormous cost of the revolution, and the heavy burdens it has placed upon the Egyptian people, will have been repaid,” it concluded.

The Dubai-based ‘Gulf News’ said the 59-year-old Al Sissi is widely expected to win the vote and restore a tradition of presidents from military background that Egypt has experienced for all but one year since 1952.

“The new president will face substantial problems after more than three years of civil chaos since the revolution of the Arab Spring in January 2011. The economy desperately needs a kick-start if only to attract more foreign investment, but it also needs a long-term restructuring to reduce both red tape and crippling subsidies, so as to unleash the power of Egyptian entrepreneurialism. This will require the new president to be both technocratically skilled and politically brave, which will be a real test of Al Sissi’s so-far untested political skills,” it noted.

The paper further said the new president will also need to restore a general sense of security after a period of continual turmoil which will require him to take a political leap and build a much more inclusive Egypt than he may be comfortable with, and certainly more inclusive than was envisaged by Mursi’s Islamist government.

“There is no denying Al Sissi’s military background, but as president, he will be performing a very different role than as head of the armed forces. In his new role, he will have to answer to all Egyptians and take the political steps to rebuild Egypt’s shattered confidence. It will be a tragedy if he allows the hopes engendered by the new thinking of the Arab Spring to wither and die,” the paper said.