Egypt’s Unexpected Upcoming Elections and El Sisi’s Time in Power

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El Sisi’s anticipated victory in upcoming elections (Image credit: CNN).

After nearly a decade of El-Sisi in power in Egypt, elections are due to take place this December – earlier than expected. The election was initially due to be held in spring 2024 and reports state that this may be due to the potential introduction of a flexible exchange rate, which may increase social tensions in the nation. El-Sisi has not yet formally announced his candidacy for the presidency for a potential third time, and he may be contested by two other candidates. However, it is widely regarded that the chance of a competitive election is slim, as El-Sisi was reelected in 2018 with 97% of the votes. It is also claimed that other presidential candidates were arrested and intimidated to not run for elections, with a self-proclaimed El-Sisi supporter being the sole rival to his 2018 triumph

Nevertheless, El-Sisi’s time in power has been significant for the Egyptian population and economy. The nation has invested in a lot of infrastructure projects since his rise to power in 2014. This was clear as El-Sisi announced expansion plans for one of the most important trade routes in the world, known as the Suez Canal. This trade route connects the Red and Mediterranean Seas, accounting for ten percent of all maritime trade in the world. The country has been working to make the canal more accessible to two-way traffic with an additional of 10 kilometres. This expansion is to stop any more disruptions, as a six-day blockage interrupted global trade in 2021

Furthermore, Egypt recently hosted COP 27 in 2022 – a UN climate change summit that has been occurring every year since 1985. This international environmental peace treaty brings the world’s leaders to its conference to discuss action on climate change. Moreover, a new administrative city is being built labelled as the “New Cairo”. The 30 billion pound project expects to house around 5 million residents with thousands of recreational and financial areas within the city. The city is being built completely from scratch, making it the largest purpose-built capital in the world.

However, El-Sisi’s means to finance these plans have been devastating for the Egyptian economy. Impositions of austerity measures have been detrimental for the people as two-thirds of the population is struggling with decreasing living standards. Egypt’s poverty rate nears around 30% according to the most recent national statistics, with the IMF estimating that 60% of Egypt’s population lived near or below the poverty line in 2019. Although the IMF provided Egypt with 3 billion dollars worth of financing, the government has printed unsustainable amounts of money in order to service their debt. This has caused inflation rates to near 37.4 percent in August 2023, which have risen by 22.4 percent in nearly a year – with no sign of a deceleration in increasing average price levels. Egypt now remains the second largest debtor to the IMF and decreases in austerity measures do not seem likely to be implemented.

Whilst El-Sisi’s projects and infrastructure investment may be beneficial to the economy in the long term, they do not bring enough revenue in the short or medium term to bring a return on investment. This has led to suffering for the Egyptian people with the previously thriving middle class searching for jobs and cutting back on spending on essential goods. 

Although El Sisi’s plans and investment into the country may signify a potential turning point since the Muslim Brotherhood’s time in power, the country’s human rights track record since El-Sisi has been the subject of significant criticism. The removal of freedom of speech, as well as suppression of political dissent, follows the same actions of Hosni Mubarak in his three-decade rule of the country. Whether El-Sisi is able to repair the disastrous economy and not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, is yet to be seen. 

Written by Arash Moaref

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