What the Election of Sisi Means for Egypt

Abdul Fattah el-Sisi

Abdul Fattah el-Sisi

CAIRO, Egypt—In a landslide victory, former military chief Abdul Fattah el-Sisi won the 2014 presidential election in Egypt on Thursday. However, his win is sparking concern for Egyptians who question what will become of the country by reinstating military rule.

El-Sisi resigned from his position as the Egyptian military chief earlier this year in order to receive a presidential bid. The state media says that the polls showed Sisi won with ninety-three percent of the vote. Ahram Online reported a victory message was posted on Sisi’s official campaign Facebook page read, "The nation has put itself, with its great people's will, on the beginning of the right track and has stepped firmly and trustingly ... towards the future they've chosen."

The overwhelming support for Sisi in the polls does not necessarily reflect the country’s sentiments, however. It was predicted that there would be a voter turnout of only forty-six percent. Presidential Elections Commission member Tarek Shebi assessed the final voter turnout at forty-eight percent, according to Ahram Online.

Such low numbers of voter turnout, coupled with the high support for Sisi create skepticism for the legitimacy of the election.  It was reported by CNN that officials even added an extra day to vote, Wednesday, to promote voting, but the attempt proved fruitless. This election did not top the 2012 elections with almost fifty-two percent voter turnout, which does not help Sisi prove his legitimacy.

In addition to the skeptical numbers, the election was plagued with accusations of misconduct. The only opposition, Hamdeen Sabahi claims that his campaign representatives were arrested and attacked, according to CNN. Also, they said that Sisi’s campaign representatives were illegally allowed inside polling places. Allegations of forgery were also made.

The criticism of voter fraud and small voter turnout could be explained by voting boycotts from Sisi detractors. It is reported by BBC News that the Islamist group called the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as some liberal and secular activist groups, boycotted voting in the elections. BBC News also reported a senior member of the Brotherhood, Tariq al-Zumar, called the elections a "theatrical play which did not convince anybody".

Those that celebrate Sisi’s victory hope that his presidency will reverse the radical conservatism that the country saw under the previous presidency of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi-supporters see it as defeat of the Muslim Brotherhood whom the ousted Morsi was a member of.

Sisi has had a relentless response to removing the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt. He is responsible for 16,000 detentions and 1,400 executions of Muslim Brotherhood members, according to BBC News. The group has since been declared a terrorist organization and banned from the country.

But, according to the numbers, there are supporters of Sisi. Al Jazeera says that most of his supporters are leftover Mubarak supporters, like former members of the regime and business people. Also, the Coptic Christians.

Despite the surrounding controversy, Hamdeen Sabahi, Sisi’s opposition, admits defeat. CNN reports Sabahi released the official statement conceding that said, "It is time to respect the people's choice and admit my loss."'

Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

A Political Façade | Egyptian Military Turns Against The People


Michael Ransom, Senior CorrespondentLast Modified: 21:35 p.m. DST, 04 April 2014

Egyptian Protesters in Chicago, Photo Courtesy of MoMoNWICAIRO - In Egypt’s chaotic political climate, the most basic freedoms are granted one moment and abolished the next, not unlike the seasonal implementation and suspension of the nation’s Constitution.

The same Society of Muslim Brotherhood members that were freely elected into public office less than three years ago are now the subjects of mass incarceration and capital punishment under President Adly Mansour’s administration. And the vast demonstrations that yielded the nation’s first-ever public presidential election in 2012 are now being smothered by state security. Throughout the country, dissent is met with death.

Free speech, peaceful assembly and media protection are now privileges granted only at the convenience of Mansour and the military agenda that he serves. Diplomacy and debate have succumbed to totalitarian suppression. Following a short flirtation with democratic ideals, Egyptians are now subject to the classic tools of fear mongering.

Recent headlines out of Cairo mark the worst abuses to date. The Mansour ministry is responsible for over a thousand civilian deaths, hundreds of mass incarcerations without cause, the suppression and kidnapping of Al Jazeera reporters, unfair trials, and now new claims that some security agents routinely rape and beat jailed protestors. The international community is demanding transparency in the treatment of Egyptian prisoners.

News organizations within the transcontinental nation are reporting the use of rape and torture to intimidate dissenters. A student with suspected allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood has been in police custody in Nasr since February. Since his capture, he has been beaten, tortured and raped by security agents, according to Al Jazeera. Young men and women are both targets of sexual abuse during detainment. This intolerable police brutality is an instrument used to silence this outspoken demographic. Student populations have become so mobilized in the aftermath of former President Mohamed Morsi’s removal that the government has now issued a ban on protests at universities.

For the young man who was raped and attacked by authorities, allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood could carry a death sentence. Last month, 529 men were collectively charged with the killing of a one policeman. The group was found guilty in a proceeding that lasted only a few hours and offered no physical evidence against the individuals. Most were not afforded a defense team, but the lawyers present were unable to speak on their clients’ behalf. The judge sentenced the group to death. The unconscionable decision will likely be repeated when a group of over 600 alleged Brotherhood members stand trial in the coming weeks. Surely, the judicial action is nothing less than mass murder under the guise of democracy.

Objective observers are hard-pressed to find any evidence that the regional turmoil has spurred even baby-steps towards democracy. The reorganization is better described as a <em>do-si-do</em> maneuver, and while a few dancers retired and some others joined in, generally the Republic has returned to its original position on the international stage. Certainly, the political dance in Egypt has been lethal in the past three years.

Unlike Morsi, Mansour gained the presidential pedestal through the military intervention of Abdul Fattah el-Sisi, who was the Commander-in-Chief of Egypt until late last month. Longstanding poverty and ideological schisms could not be solved instantly, but many Egyptians celebrated the first free presidential election. Amidst fanatical disapproval of Morsi during his short stint in Cairo, el-Sisi issued a warning to the incumbent. The president had but two days to ease tensions and rally his countrymen and women together, or he would be driven out by any means necessary.

Advocates of Morsi and proponents of democracy would both agree that the new elect had already garnered the requisite support of his people just a year prior via the ballot boxes throughout Egypt’s 27 districts. Instead of implementing order in the streets according to his constitutional provisions, el-Sisi opted to suspend the constitution altogether. Since then, the mounting fears of unrest have been self-fulfilling, prompting violence between Egyptian neighbors and colleagues. The violence between clashing ideologies are secondary, however, to the totalitarian government’s crimes against humanity, which continue to concern watchdog groups such as Human Rights Watch.

In the final days of March, el-Sisi resigned from his Commander-in-Chief post and has declared his intention to run for the nation’s highest office in the upcoming 2014 election. El-Sisi’s efforts to separate his name from the current chaos will not go unnoticed. Should he be elected to the presidency in the future, certainly he would understand the fragile and temporary nature of the position. In the meantime, the international community will lobby to protect the Egyptian people and their democratic will.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @MAndrewRansom

Mohammed al-Zawahiri arrested in Egypt


Ty Butler, Senior CorrespondentInternational Development and Conflict Last Modified: 02:30 a.m. DST, 19 August 2013

Mohammed al-Zawahiri (Crop)

GIZA, Egypt - The brother of Al Qaeda Central’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been arrested in Egypt. Mohammed al-Zawahiri was detained at a checkpoint in Giza during a military crackdown on Islamists supposedly supporting ousted President Mohamed Morsi which has seen over 1000 arrested so far.

This is not the first time that Mohammed al-Zawahiri has been arrested. He was sentenced to death in Egypt in absentia in the 90’s for his alleged role in the assassination of Anwar Sadat and was detained in Dubai before being transferred to the Egypt.

Instead of having his death sentence carried out, he instead spent the next 13 – 14 years in Cairo’s Tora prison. Following the fall of Hosni Mubarak from power, the military’s interim government (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) released Zawahiri as part of a general amnesty program. Shortly after he was rearrested and tried under a military tribunal where he was acquitted of charges related to terrorism and the attempted overthrow of the Egyptian state and re-released in March 2012.

Zawahiri’s name stands out among those arrested due to the international jihadi activities of his brother.  Initial speculation over justifications of his arrest surround accusations of an “alliance” with Morsi and suggestions that he has been leading militants in the Sinai Peninsula. The truth behind Mohammed al-Zawahiri’s actual story though is less clear.

Formerly a deputy and military commander of his older brother’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement, Zawahiri was linked to some of the organization’s militant jihadi cells in Albania, Bosnia, and Croatia before apparently breaking ranks with the group due to its increasingly closer ties to Al Qaeda (the Egyptian Islamic Jihad would go on to merge with Al Qaeda and from part of the core of Al Qaeda Central’s leadership).

Mohammed al-Zawahiri’s role in international jihadism has, since then, been murky at best. Part of the agreement that saw his execution stayed was allegedly the informing on Egyptian Islamic Jihad activities (in cooperation with the CIA and Egyptian intelligence), coupled with a renouncing of violence.

Upon his release he co-founded the group Ansar al-Sharia Egypt with other former members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. The ideological underpinnings of the group remain unclear. The founding statements of the organization dedicates the group to thesupport of mujaheddin style jihadi groups all over the world. This is a similar stance to Al Qaeda Central and the more public leader of Ansar Al Sharia Egypt, Ahmed Ashush, has made many public statements praising Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and militant groups both overseas and those located within the Sinai Peninsula. Such groups include Ansar Bayt al Maqdis, Al Salafiyya al Jihadiyya, and the Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem, who are largely known for their rocket attacks against the state of Israel.

Despite verbal support for such groups, Ahmed Ashush claims that his organization “are not preachers of violence” and that they are not armed. Whether or not one is inclined to believe Ashush or the goals of his organization, Mohammed al-Zawahiri himself has shown considerable public restraint with regards to calls for violence. Six months after being released from prison, Zawahiri publicly called for a peace deal between the West and Islamists. After the military ousting of Mohamed Morsi, Zawahiri likewise issued statements on Facebook that, while aimed at stirring up jihadis, did not explicitly call for violence.

Murky ideological structures aside, it does seem evident that Mohammed al-Zawahiri has strong connections to Ansar al-Sharia Egypt and thus possible connections to more violent militant groups in the Sinai Peninsula, and even to Al Qaeda Central (though no official connections are known to exist). This connection is reinforced through his appearance in both Al Qaeda style propaganda videos and in videos released by the Al Bayan Media Foundation, the propaganda wing of Ansar al-Sharia Egypt.

As the case for Zawahiri’s involvement with jihadi groups in the Sinai strengthens though, the case for him being an ally of former president Morsi simultaneously diminishes. Al Qaeda and international jihadi groups have long been in contention with the Muslim Brotherhood over their participation in democratic processes and failure to implement sharia law. Head of Ansar al-Sharia, Ahmed Ashush has made similar statements and condemnations of Morsi’s government prior to his fall from power. These condemnations have long been echoed by Al Qaeda Central and other affiliated groups.

When Moris was deposed, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Al Shabaab both wasted little time in utilizing the incident to denounce participation in democratic institutions and to push jihad as the only legitimate way to build a “just” society.  Whatever his role within Egypt’s larger Islamist community, Mohammed al-Zawahiri’s capture is unlikely to either significantly weaken support for Morsi (given his affiliated organization's traditionally negative views of them), or significantly impact the operational capabilities of armed militant groups that have been mobilizing in the Sinai.

Follow Ty Butler on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @TywButler

Death Toll Rises in Egypt


Jessica Tanner, Staff WriterLast Modified: 11:42 p.m. DST, 9 July 2013

Egyptian Protester, Photo by J_P_DCAIRO, Egypt - A violent clash erupted in Cairo, Egypt on Monday that led to the deaths of more than 50 people. Top Egyptian security officials claim that they were defending the Republican Guard headquarters against attackers. According to Health Ministry official, Khaled al-Khatib announced the number of fatalities at 51 with 435 others left severely wounded.

Several witnesses report seeing the military and police fire as protesters took a break from holding a vigil at the Republican Guard headquarters to perform their dawn prayers. Interior Ministry spokesman, Hani Abdel-Latif tells a different story. Around 4am an “armed group” used bombs, rocks, and bullets to attack the area and the people safeguarding the headquarters building.

The officers told reporters that it is the job of the security forces to protect protesters. According to the officers, what occurred was an assault and their main focus at that time was to protect the institution.

According to The Freedom and Justice Party’s deputy chairman, Esam al Aryan, revealed on their Facebook site that four children were killed during the clash. Monday’s violent clash also deepened an existing crisis since the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi. Many of Morsi’s supporters have been in daily battles with security forces since his public ouster.

A spokesperson, Nadar Baker said to reporters, “We will not remain silent on the Republican Guard Massacre.” Before Monday’s violent outbreak there had also been 30 deaths and 1,400 had suffered injuries following the coup. Egypt’s military declared over the weekend it was stepping up security efforts for the demonstrations. The statement read, “We also warn against any provocations or clashes with the peaceful demonstrators. Anyone who violates these instructions will be dealt with firmly in accordance with the law.”

Follow Jessica Tanner on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Staff Writer: @JessTanner1991