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June 7, 2014

Al-Sisi: Egypt's newly elected president

Prof. Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Egypt is divided; on one side there is the vast majority of its 90 millions, hopeful and optimistic for a bright future, and on the other side there is a tiny group of Islamists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) who terrorize and kill to advance their political agenda, and above all justify their crimes in the name of Islam.

But the good news is this: there is a large group of Islamists, the Noor party, who condemn the MB terrorist campaign and have joined the whole nation in supporting a road map into the future; based on the three objectives of the two popular revolutions of the masses of January 25, 2011 and June 30, 2013; building a democratic liberal system, and achieving both economic development and social justice.

In addition to the Noor party which represents the Egyptian Salafi, the rest of the Muslim population including the large soft-spoken Sufi group were in full support of getting rid of the secretive multinational Brotherhood after misusing their election to power a year ago in trying to change the fabric of the country; pitting Muslims against Christians, Sunni against Shia, moderates against extremists, men against women, and civilians against their national army and police.

Moreover, the Noor party has strongly supported the former Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the recent presidential election of May 26-28, 2014. Its support was an important factor of the landslide victory of Al-Sisi.

Sisi won last week election with over 90% of the vote. He got some 10 million votes more than the MB's Mohamed Morsi. I voted for Sisi at the Egyptian Embassy in Ottawa along with many of my PhD students. The percentage of participation in Egypt was the highest in Egyptian election history; some 50% of the eligible voters went to cast their votes despite an over 40 degrees temperature, threats by the MB to use violence and the usual political apathy which much older democracies suffer from. It was the first election in Egypt where no religious slogans or fatwa were used to direct people to vote for a certain person as the MB did in the 2012 presidential election.

People, both Muslims and Christians, young and old, men and women, after the declaration of Sisi's victory went to Cairo's Tahrir Square to celebrate and offer public thanksgiving prayers, that the man who had saved Egypt from an Islamist regime and a civil war as the current ones in Syria and Libya will lead their nation.

Despite the Brotherhood propaganda Al-Sisi had won fair and square as most people considered him a national hero. All national and international observers reported only the usual glitches common in any election.

Sisi impressive performance during long pre-election TV interviews added to his popularity.  His election program was general but was well thought out. He assembled in his team of advisers some of the best brains inside and outside Egypt. People liked him as a deeply religious conservative man, even with a Sufi tendency but who does not mix religion with politics.

Egypt is facing overwhelming outside threats to its national security; on the West there is an unstable Libya, on the East there is the terrorist-supporting MB-linked Hamas and in the South there is the MB-linked regime of Sudan.

Egypt is also fighting an internal terrorist war for a year, which resulted in the murder and the injury of thousands, the burning of churches and the destruction of millions worth of public buildings.  In some ways, all these files present an opportunity for Sisi to show leadership. He must balance security with human rights and freedoms, and economical development with social justice.

At the international level he must work on enhancing Egypt's relations with Arab, African, Middle East, the West and the East, Russia, India and China. He also has to deal with countries supporting terrorism e.g. Qatar and Turkey.

Sisi will be tested in the months to come. But he is supported by a vast segment of the population, including academics, lawyers, judges, professionals, business people, farmers, labor, the army, media, artists, writers, police, the Church and Al-Azhar. He also backed by the rich Arab countries and national, Arab and international investors. American and European support is soon expected. The Russians and the Chinese are ready to do business.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cannot fail even if he tries.

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