Maged Atef

Maged Atef

Egypt, Elections, Featured, Islamist Politics, Political Parties

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Will Abdul Fattah al-Sisi run for president? This is the most popular question in the Egyptian streets as well as among research analysts abroad following Egyptian affairs.

Anyone examining the scene in Egypt will discover that al-Sisi is facing a personal crisis. On one hand, running for the presidency would open the door for his enemies to attack him and undermine the events of June 30. They could seize the opportunity to spread the idea that a military coup took place and Sisi is just another general looking to squash the emerging democracy. On the other hand, the current circumstances are not only suitable for him to run, but large numbers of supporters are also urging his campaign.

The Egyptian political scene is divided into four sections: the army, Islamists, revolutionary powers, and the old state.

The revolutionary / civil powers

Despite a partial agreement on the promotion of Hamdin Sabahi based on his surprising performance in the last presidential elections, these groups do not have a prominent candidate. Yet Sabahi today is not the same as he was in 2012. His confusion over positions, which are often changing and contradictory, forced some to lose confidence in him. Furthermore, many Egyptians both at home and abroad are not fond of his Nasserite discourse as well as his ideological conflict with the left and his continuous attacks on U.S. policies. Given these factors, Sabahi is not the strongest presidential candidate, but it does not entirely eliminate his chances in the competition.

Islamic forces

It is clear that political Islam was served a blow after June 30, causing the movement to become undefined. There is currently no one from this current who can compete in the presidential elections, especially after the most prominent Islamist candidate, Hazem Abu Ismail, was imprisoned and the popularity of Abdel Moneim Abu Fatouh dwindled. The absence of the Muslim Brotherhood from the scene and the agreement among the Salafis to go along with the popular rejection of the principle of theocracy makes speaking about an Islamist candidate meaningless, at least for the time being.

The old state

The protests of June 30 were a lifeline for Mubarak era figures, collectively known as the old state. In fact, the old state goes beyond political figures, extending to include an economic network that intersects with the government authorities. This group of interests has not yet settled on a candidate as Ahmed Shafiq is no longer suitable due to the fact that he was the last prime minister under Mubarak and his military background. In addition, he is sending out messages that June 30 was a coup against January 25, which is very unpopular messaging.

If these groups do not back Sisi should he run, they must search for a new face. There is talk that Mustafa Hegazy, the political advisor to the president, is a potential candidate. Because Hegazy is not known to be a follower of any movement and has no political history that could result in animosities or clashes, he could easily be a facade.

The army

The military institution is the most important factor in the equation. Fielding Sisi as a presidential candidate would be broadly welcomed at the popular level as millions support him either out of hate for the Brotherhood, awe for the image of a national hero, or nostalgia for Nasser.

But Sisi’s decision is complicated and fraught with danger, both internally and externally. He does not want to mar the image of June 30 or depict it as a military coup, but at the same time, the scene is so void of good alternatives that it may not be optional, but obligatory for him to run. If Sisi does not run, then the military may not have a candidate to present. Ahmed Shafiq is a lost card and Sami Anan (former military chief of staff) is widely hated for his participation in the mistakes and catastrophes of the transitional period handled by the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces. As for Murad Muwafi (former head of intelligence), he is relatively unknown, so it is unclear how his campaign could be successfully marketed.

Amid the confusing scene, there remain many questions going forward. Yet it seems most probable that Sisi will be a candidate.

Maged Atef is the general manager of EgyptFixer and a freelance journalist based in Cairo. His work has been published in U.S. outlets such as Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Buzzfeed, As-Safir and Raseef22 in Lebanon, and Egypt's Tahrir Newspaper.