Anniversary of Sisi's coup in Egypt: Nothing to celebrate

Anniversary of Sisi's coup in Egypt: Nothing to celebrate
Two years since the coup in Egypt, those who celebrated Sisi's presidential bid are today mourning their loved ones killed in streets and battlefields, as the bloody crackdown intensifies.
4 min read
01 July, 2015
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is losing legitimacy as his promises remain unfulfilled [Getty]

The Egyptian regime will have to pass on this year's anniversary of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's military coup without celebrations. A surprising attack, on the eve of the anniversary, soaked Sinai desert in blood.

A total of around 80 people, soldiers and civilians, were killed when suspected militants staged coordinated attacks, including a suicide car bombing, on army checkpoints in northern Sinai.

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IS-affiliated "Welayat Sinaa" (Sinai emirate) claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying that its militants targeted 15 military checkpoints in Shiekh Zweid.

As clashes continue in North Sinai, Egyptians are forced to leave their houses and roam around the streets of Cairo to make a living under the imminent threat of a terrorist attack.

Since Sisi became president, bomb attacks have become more frequent, recently killing Egypt's high prosecutor. But Sisi's informal contract with the people was all about security. He came to power under a thick cover of security propaganda.

Backed by Western and Gulf Arab powers pumping billions of dollars into the economy each year, Sisi is still firmly in control, with security forces cracking down on dissent, and on any potential democratic mobilisation.

But with frustration growing on the streets, the man who could once do no wrong in the eyes of many Egyptians is now desperate to sustain his grip on the Arab world's most populous nation.

Knowing his military background and his counter-revolutionary stance, Sisi is heading towards more authoritarian policies which, as history reaffirms, beget more extremist opposition.

His authoritarian approach, combined with disastrous economic policies and corrupt judicial system, begs the question: how long can Sisi stand? 

Authoritarian mindset

"In defiance of worldwide pleas for Egypt to respect its human rights obligations after 529 people were sentenced to death in March by the same court, hundreds [683 defendants] now face a similar fate at the hands of a judicial system where international fair trial guarantees appear to be increasingly trampled upon," Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in April 2014.

Despite the strong statement, the judicial system did not cease mass death sentences. This month, former President Morsi and 106 others were handed death sentences for their alleged role in a mass "prison break" during the January 2011 uprising.

Overall, civilian courts gave more than 1,000 death sentences since July 2013. The profiles of the "convicts" raise eyebrows. Emad Shahin, a world-renowned academic who taught at Harvard University and the American University in Cairo, and Sondon Asem, a promising young scholar and political activist were among them.

Economic woes

If one looks at the economic figures, Egypt's numbers are promising. The economy is projected to grow to 5 percent in 2015/2016, roughly the same as 2009/2010 when Mubarak was still in power. Also, there's a marginal fall in unemployment, though it still stands at 12.8 percent, and ratings agencies have been generally positive about Egypt.

Foreign firms are signing deals. BP finalised a $12 billion energy deal with Egypt in March and Germany's Siemens sealed a $9 billion energy deal during Sisi's recent visit to Germany. But inflation remains high - annual urban consumer inflation rose to 13.1 percent in May, versus 8.2 percent a year ago.

But there is a macroeconomic truth behind those numbers. The majority of labourers in Egypt are stuck in low-paid, low-skilled, low-productivity jobs which means they contribute too little in the generation of growth and they don't enjoy its return.

The billions entering Egypt are feeding a military-economic complex of real estate, banking, and other massive projects owned partially or fully by the army and business elite.

Fuel subsidy cuts led to price increases of up to 78 percent last July. Taxes on cigarettes and alcohol have also risen. And Egyptians feel the effect of subsidy cuts much more than they feel the wealth prospects of foreign investment.

Nothing to celebrate

President Sisi and his military entourage have put in place a highly repressive order that is based on arbitrary arrests, violence, disregard for civil and political rights, and intolerance for public criticism.

With the assassination of the high prosecutor and the current escalation in Sinai, the Egyptian state won't celebrate the coup.

The tragic events provide a legit excuse for the government not to celebrate. But, anyway, it would have been difficult to convince Egyptians that they can celebrate as they see their country slide down a slope of irreversible violence.