Egypt’s Presidential Election: Will Democracy Survive? Will a Frankenstate Rise? by Sabrina Amaya @ UCLA
During the last nine years Egypt’s government has transitioned from a dictatorship to a presidential-parliamentary system. In 2011, Egyptians decided to remove then President Hosni Mubarak who had been president for thirty years. He was actually a dictator. When Tunisia started its revolution, Egypt decided to have a revolution as well and fight for freedom. Egyptian people had the will to take action. The momentum of change was extremely powerful during protests in Tahir Square, Cairo. Freedom and hope was the message across Egypt and they succeeded. President Mubarak resigned. Eight years have passed since the Egyptian Revolution now referred as part of the Arab Spring. Democracy rose in 2011, but now, in 2018, democracy is eroding and a Frankenstate is rising. In a few weeks, the fourth presidential election will take place. To the world, Egypt looks like a growing democracy, but it is not and the Egyptian people should be concerned.
Egypt in the past eight years has transitioned from being ruled under a dictatorship to a democracy. During its transition, Egypt was under the Military Supreme Council power. In 2012, the first democratically elected President was sworn in, President Mohamed Morsy. He was a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a political group with ideologies believing Islam is the way of life. In 2015, Morsy was ousted by a military coup because the people were not happy with the job he was doing and not sharing the power with his opposition, which general demanded. He had too much power, as he would had been able to anything he wanted for six months without checks and balances until a new constitution was written. Outside the Presidential Palace, protestors against his presidency were violently attacked. The President supported this, so the military had a promissory coup, to restore democracy and hold elections. Finally, in 2014 a new president was elected. Egypt’s former military chief, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, won the presidency by “96% of the vote” (CNN).
Four years later, he is now running for a re-election. Who is President Sisi? What has his presidency done for Egypt? President Sisi is a former military general and has their support. He was formerly the minister of defense and deputy prime minster. During his presidency, he declared there was no need for a unified “Arab force,” pardoned one hundred prisoners including two journalists who were linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the economy has been in decline leading to inflation. Most recently, he gave away a couple of islands located in the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. He has done so much, but in this upcoming election, President Sisi has publicly shown his abuse of power. He has shown his true colors and intention of creating a Frankenstate.
During President Sisi’s second-term presidential announcement, he said “I pledge that the upcoming presidential election will be free and transparent,” Mr. Sisi said during his speech, adding that the campaign would be “characterized by equal opportunities between candidates” (New York Times). Actions speak louder than words. His actions are the opposite of his words. All of the candidates who were strong enough to actually challenge him for the presidency were threatened, pressured to quit, or actually arrested by other charges that prohibited them from running for office. For example, Sami Anan, a retired general, was arrested with charges of not obeying the military code. His lawyer has argued the charges are false.
Most of the candidates that would bring serious competition to have withdrawn their candidacy. He is the only viable candidate. What is a Frankenstate? A Frankenstate “is an abusive form of rule, created by combining the bits and pieces of perfectly reasonable democratic institutions in monstrous ways, much as Frankenstein’s monster was created from bits and pieces of other living thing” according to political scientists, Kim Lane Scheppele from Princeton University. President Sisi has created a false public image of a transparent and free elections while his government has manipulated the election candidates. At the last minute, another candidate registered. A politician called Mousa Mostafa Mousa. The irony of his candidacy is he had previously campaigned for Sisi and was only running to assure Sisi would be the only candidate that can win. He seems to be a puppet candidate, just to show the world that this is not a one-man election and the people have a choice to vote for their preferred candidate. The integrity of this upcoming election is very questionable.
President Sisi does not have the characteristics of being a populist for now. I think over time the campaign will tell us more of both candidates’ political identities. The Egyptian people have a strong group polarization. If most Egyptian people support Sisi, then undecided voters will vote for him to stay as President because of an extreme mentality, assuring him winning a second term. This election reminds me of Latin American dictators. People believed dictators were saving democracy and were for the “good” of the people. Something very similar is happening in Egypt with Sisi. On March 7, 2018, the United human-rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein condemned a “pervasive climate of intimidation” in Egypt ahead of the vote (TIMES). The election is seen as a sham. They have silenced the opposition. Democracy is supposed to allow any candidate run for president if they qualify as stated in the constitution. Egypt fought to be a democracy, but there is a cycle of Presidents of power driven politicians seeking their own political interests before the people interests.
President Sisi is creating a Frankenstate disguised as a democracy. Elections are publicly seen as the most important aspect of a democracy. I think President Sisi is taking advantage and will form a new Egypt which can have serious consequences to the economy and future generations of Egyptians. Egyptians will vote on March 26-28. If no candidate wins the majority, a runoff vote will occur in late April. Major news outlets are predicting President Sisi will win a second term. I think now it is a matter of time to wait for the election. It is going to be interesting to see how both candidates campaign and see what type of Egypt they present to the voters. Voter turnout will be important aspect of group polarization. What type of President would Sisi be in the second term? Will his Frankenstate bring prosperity to Egyptians or completely erode democracy? The upcoming elections are very important to see if Egypt has a chance to continue to grow as a democratic state or if it reverses back to an authoritarian regime. Only time will tell, but the fact is freedom is desired and was won during the 2011 rebellion. It seems that the freedom of Egyptians is coming to a huge stop. May the Egyptian people choose wisely.
Muller, Jan-Werner. 2016. What Is Populism? Philadelphia: UPenn Press. Introduction, Chapter 1: pp. 1-40.
Scheppele, Kim Lane. 2013. “Not Your Father’s Authoritarianism: The Creation of the ‘Frankenstate’.” European Politics and Society Newsletter 5-9. [4 pp.]
Sunstein, Cass. Going to Extremes: How Like Minds Unite and Divide. New York: Oxford University Press. Chapter 1. [17 pp.]