Surprising no one, Sisi swears in as Egypt's president for another six years

Surprising no one, Sisi swears in as Egypt's president for another six years
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's reelection for a third term coincided with tough economic conditions and political challenges.
5 min read
Egypt - Cairo
02 April, 2024
Sisi will start performing his official duties on 2 April from the new headquarters of the presidential palace in the New Administrative Capital. [Getty]

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi officially took oath in the capital, Cairo, on Tuesday to run the Arab World's most populous country for a third term before the lower house of the parliament for the coming six years.

Senior state officials, including Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, General Intelligence Agency Director Abbas Kamel, and Speaker of the Senate (the upper house of the parliament) Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Razek, witnessed the extravagant event held in the New Administrative Capital, east of Cairo.

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayyeb and the Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Tawadros II, also attended the ceremony.

Army aircraft painted the sky with the colours of Egypt's flag - black, white, and red, as cannons were fired in celebration of Sisi's inauguration.

Tough challenges

Sisi, 69, is set to start performing his official duties on Wednesday, 2 April, from the new headquarters of the presidential palace in the New Administrative Capital.

Sisi was reelected for a third term as president, winning 89.6 per cent of the vote held in December last year, a contest overshadowed by Israel’s brutal onslaught on the neighbouring Palestinian Gaza Strip and an unforgiving economic crisis.

The country's debt soared by 5.1 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2022, reaching US$162.94 billion, a total of US$10 billion more than the previous quarter.

In the first quarter of 2024, however, Egypt saw an influx of over US$50 billion in loans and investment deals, which Cairo has said will ease dire foreign currency shortages and revitalise the ailing economy.

"I am committed to continuing the journey of building the nation and meeting the expectations of the great Egyptian people to establish a modern, democratic state that excels in arts, agriculture, science, industry, urban development and literature," Sisi told the event attendees.

In his speech, Sisi also confirmed his government's commitment to adopting strategies that maximise Egypt's economic resources and capabilities.

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Many voters previously said that the war on Gaza had encouraged them to vote for Sisi, who has long presented himself as a bulwark of stability in a volatile region — an argument that has appeared effective with Gulf and Western allies providing financial support to his government.

Sisi’s victory has been a foregone conclusion for most Egyptians, though, for he ran against three other candidates, none of whom were high profile, in a vote widely viewed as neither free nor fair.

The president’s most credible challenger, former MP, and journalist Ahmed Tantawy, ended his run complaining that his campaign had been impeded and dozens of his supporters arrested.

Tantawy was sentenced to one year in prison over the charges of "printing and disseminating unauthorised endorsement forms" for his candidacy in a trial slammed by his lawyer for allegedly being "unfair."

Over the past decade marking the rule of Sisi, media freedom and civil rights have sharply deteriorated in Egypt, a country ranked as the world's third-worst jailer of journalists. 

Some 600 local and international news sites, including Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister company, have also been blocked in Egypt.

Mixed reactions

The inaugural ceremony of Sisi has sparked mixed reactions on social media, with many lamenting the country’s predicament and others hailing his inauguration.  The Arabic hashtags whose English translations are "the swearing-in ceremony and Sisi's third term" have been trending over the past few hours. 

Self-exiled editor-in-chief of the UK-based Egypt Watch, Osama Gawish, posted cynically on X, formerly known as Twitter: "While standing inside a building that cost billions, the daring [man]…said he will rationalise spending."

Egypt has been, arguably, sustaining the toughest economic crisis in modern history, sparking widespread criticism of public spending on white elephant projects including the New Administrative Capital which cost Egypt about US$60 billion.

One X user praised the luxurious event, posting: "Watch the grandeur…this is the least we could do."

Another posted, also on X, attaching a picture of Sisi with the hashtag, "Congratulations to our president and have our full support."

"Sisi's rhetoric of unfulfilled promises is as usual an attempt to appease an already angry public, which is similar to earlier speeches," a high-profile political sociologist told TNA.

"Amid the absence of actual opposition, Egyptians' reactions on social media are also the same. While some, likely trolls driven by security agencies, are hailing his reelection, others, mostly self-exiled, are slamming him and his constant failure to meet the public’s expectations," the expert added on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety.

Sisi first took power unofficially in 2013 as the de facto leader of Egypt after he overthrew the country's first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, who died years later behind bars.

Sisi, who is expected to serve a final term as per the Egyptian constitution, further vowed, during Tuesday's ceremony, to carry out the recommendations of the National Dialogue in different fields with an emphasis on empowering political participation, especially among the youth.

The country’s constitution was previously amended in 2019 to extend the presidential term to six years from four, which allowed Sisi to run for a final term in 2030.