Three years on from the protests that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, Egypt risks sliding back into repression

For all his being cut from such wearyingly familiar cloth, it is very much to be hoped that General Sisi will join the race for the presidency

Share

On 25 January 2011, Egypt saw the start of the protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak and supposedly ended six decades of military rule. Three years on, however, there is not much to celebrate. Indeed, after the multiple explosions that rocked Cairo yesterday, less than a week after a referendum on yet another constitution billed as yet another new dawn, the promise of democracy looks further away than ever.

The latest spasm of violence is no one-off. The attacks that began soon after the coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government last July have steadily escalated in intensity, while unrest – often deadly – also continues to simmer in cities across the country.

Mr Morsi’s short-lived presidency left much to be desired, with the result he remains far from popular. But he was, nonetheless, a democratically elected leader ousted by the military at the behest of the mob. And since his fall, the country, under the stewardship of army chief and Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has slid ever more certainly backwards.

First came the bloody clearing of pro-Morsi protest camps that left hundreds dead and thousands injured. Since then, under the pretext of clamping down on terrorism, the Muslim Brotherhood has been outlawed and its members harassed and locked up. Nor is it only Islamists who are feeling the rough edge of the new regime. So, too, are opponents of any stripe, be they secular activists, journalists, even former members of parliament. Amnesty International warns of dissent quashed, human rights trampled and violence on an “unprecedented scale”. Meanwhile, the new constitution passed by a national referendum last week not only bolsters the power of the military but also limits freedoms of expression and assembly.

The plan was endorsed by an overwhelming majority, and turnout – at about 40 per cent – was slightly higher than that for the Morsi version in 2012. But a putative No campaign was suppressed. Muslim Brotherhood supporters instituted a boycott, and vast swathes of the public, particularly in rural areas, were simply too politically alienated to get involved at all.

The vote was, of course, a poll on the treatment of Mr Morsi as much as it was on the constitution. In the aftermath, the long-running question of whether General Sisi will stand in the forthcoming presidential elections now comes sharply to the fore. There have been hints aplenty, and thousands of supporters rallied in Cairo this week, but the general is yet to throw his hat formally into the ring.

Should he do so, there can be little doubt that he will win. After three years of instability, Egyptians are desperate for a strong leader, and the general’s burgeoning cult of personality – complete with nods to nationalist hero Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser – adds to the appeal.

For all his being cut from such wearyingly familiar cloth, it is very much to be hoped that General Sisi will join the race for the presidency. It is far better that he holds power directly, with at least the possibility of democratic removal, than that he pulls strings from behind the scenes. He would also be forced to craft a coherent response to his country’s myriad problems, rather than simply lambasting those who went before. Should he fail to do so, Egyptians may prove no more forgiving of him than they were of Mr Morsi. The outlook for democracy may be far from rosy. But the genie let out of the bottle in 2011 will not easily go back in.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Police officers attempt to stop illegal migrants from jumping onto trucks headed for Britain in the northeastern French port of Calais on October 29, 2014  

Tighter security in Calais won’t solve the problem

Nigel Morris
 

Football needs its Martin Luther moment, and soon

Boyd Tonkin
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines