Older Egyptians may welcome a return to stability under General Sisi, but his regime can only be a stop-gap

Where are the voices raised in protest against the burial of Egypt’s hopes of democracy?


A promise to deprive people of a decent night’s sleep might not be a vote-winner in many countries. But for the retired General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the absolute shoo-in as next president of Egypt, the offer of tough love is part of the appeal. Speaking on television, Mr Sisi declared that, once he became head of state, “I will not sleep and neither will you”. It was vintage stuff from a man who likes to compare Egypt to a lazy child and the army to a father who – rightly – does not spare the rod.

Today’s vote is not a genuine election. Only one rival to Mr Sisi is standing, a tame left-winger who has been allowed to run in order to preserve constitutional niceties about competition. The once-dominant Islamists, who convincingly won the much freer election that followed the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in 2011, have no champion. This is unsurprising, as Mr Sisi had their party, the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed as a terrorist organisation.

Where, then, are the voices raised in protest against the burial of Egypt’s hopes of democracy? Nowhere, it seems. The same Western governments that hailed the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011 as a new dawn only a few years down the line clearly feel mightily relieved that the new dawn is over. It’s not just the Americans and their European allies who discretely welcome this return to the status quo ante in Egypt, of rule by a father-of-the-nation figure. Most of the Gulf monarchies feel likewise. All got their fingers burnt in the so-called Arab Spring and have no regrets that a messy experiment with democracy has been put aside. With Mr Sisi ensconced in Cairo, the Arab Spring is indeed dead and buried – and not just in Egypt; the country’s sheer size means that what happens there has wider impact. A Sisi regime will be a great comfort to the Assads in Syria, as they slowly overwhelm their divided enemies. Had Egypt remained in the hands of the Islamists who won the 2012 election, the Sunni insurgents battling the Assads would have been much encouraged. Now the Syrian rebels appear more isolated than ever.

Assuming that the war in Syria continues in its present trajectory, in favour of the Assads, we could see the emergence of a formidable axis in the Middle East and the Maghreb running from Damascus to Algiers via Cairo. It will comprise a chain of mutually supportive secular, authoritarian, semi-military regimes, and their principal justification in the eyes of their own populations will lie in the claim that they saved their countries from the twin horrors of radical Islam and social chaos.

For the moment, Mr Sisi looks unstoppable. Many Egyptians warm to talk of dawn starts for everyone and lots of nationalism. Among older Egyptians, his message stirs memories of the palmy days of General Nasser, when Egypt was a bigger player in the world than it is today. The problem is that it all sounds backward-looking. The vitality of regimes run by ex-generals does not endure, because they are so averse to criticism and thus also to change. Mr Sisi may have a few fallow years ahead but, in the long term, Egypt and the rest of the Arab world need governments that are more free, not less.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform