Egyptian TV series portraying Sisi's rise to power sparks debate and lots of memes
A new Egyptian TV series that began broadcasting at the start of Ramadan and depicts the events leading up to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's rise to power has sparked an avalanche of reactions throughout the country.
Season 3 of El-Ekhteyar ("The Choice"), renamed Al-Qarar ("The Decision") for this year, covers the period before and after Sisi was appointed as defence minister during the reign of late president Mohamed Morsi.
Morsi was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group deemed illegal by the government in 2014. Despite being the first democratically-elected president in Egypt's history, Morsi was overthrown in a military coup led by Sisi on 3 July 2013, following mass protests that kicked off on 30 June against the Muslim Brotherhood's rule.
This is the first time Sisi has been portrayed on TV and is played by prominent actor Yasser Galal. The show is reportedly produced by Synergy, which is funded and run by Egypt's intelligence agency, in cooperation with the interior and defence ministries.
In the first two episodes of the series, senior Muslim Brotherhood members and their leader, Mohamed Badie, played by celebrated actor Abdel-Aziz Makhyoun, were shown selecting Sisi to succeed Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi after a terrorist attack left 16 army forces dead in North Sinai in August 2012.
Sisi used to be the chief of Egypt's military intelligence agency before being appointed as defence minister.
In the series, Sisi's selection by the Muslim Brotherhood is portrayed as part of a heated debate that took place amongst its most senior members, including billionaire businessman Khairat El-Shater, known for being among the most influential voices behind Morsi's rule, who was against the appointment. Shater's character is played by celebrated actor Khaled El-Sawy.
The series also shows that Sisi was under the surveillance of the Muslim Brotherhood's intelligence apparatus, which ironically supported his appointment based on his religiosity and assumptions that he would be supportive of the Islamic movement.
However, Tantawi, played by renowned actor Ahmed Bedeir, is seen in the same episode, as he is removed, telling his second-in-command, general Mohamed El-Assar: "What we have already wished for has taken place," suggesting that the appointment of Sisi was already planned by either the intelligence or the military.
The series presents Sisi as a decent, kindhearted individual, who is supportive of his soldiers and not submissive to the orders or directives of Muslim Brotherhood members.
Ever since the first episode was broadcast over the weekend, Egyptian social media users were polarised between praising or mocking the show. The division manifested into two competing hashtags that have been trending: "Yasser Galal" and "El-Ekhteyar 3".
Several commentators focused on the selection of a tall actor with a strong body like Galal while in reality, Sisi is much shorter. Other users suggested that the Egyptian president could have gotten involved in the series by rejecting another superstar for being too short for the role.
One Twitter user attached a doctored photo mocking Galal, substituting him with shorter prominent Egyptian comedian Mohamed Henedy, and wrote, "This show is an endless source of mems enough for years."
Another user tweeted:
Al-Sisi is attempting to gain popularity with the series #الاختيار3 , but he is tragically losing it again, because everything in the series الاختيار٣ is a fake, as we all know.— Mado (@MadooEg) April 3, 2022
The series teased that in its upcoming episodes, it will broadcast never-seen-before surveillance footage of several Muslim Brotherhood meetings that have been declassified by the Egyptian general intelligence agency.