Sisi continues in Egypt with Saudi and US backing

Sisi continues in Egypt with Saudi and US backing

Egypt’s election board has announced that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was reelected president for a second term in the March 26-28 election with 92 percent of the vote but only 40 percent turnout.

Both the turnout and voter support are typical, not only in Egypt but in most countries, from the Middle East to Central Asia. Voters who believe they cannot win, either because of the political atmosphere or because they are aware of their weakness, do not bother going to the ballot boxes, letting the winner dominate the entire system.

In the first relatively free elections in the country in 2012, a year after the Tahrir revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi was elected but with a turnout that was also below 40 percent. And the “92 percent victory” used to be the subject of political jokes during the reign of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who resigned as a result of popular protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. 

After spending six years in prison, Mubarak was released in 2017. Morsi is still in jail after being overthrown through a military coup by his Chief of Staff General Sisi in 2013. Sisi was Morsi’s choice as chief of staff but was already known for his closeness to Saudi Arabia. Therefore, he favored the Brotherhood anyway.

A week before the toppling of Morsi by Sisi, the Emir of Qatar, who was known to be a strong supporter of the Brotherhood, had stepped down from the chair to leave his place to young Prince Tamim al-Thani, the current emir, during a Middle East tour by the United States Secretary of State at the time, John Kerry.

The toppling of Morsi in Egypt had delivered a blow to the Brotherhood network in the Middle East and had dramatic effects in Syria, where the core of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad was the Brotherhood. As a result, while some Brotherhood groups stuck with the anti-Assad rebels, others joined more radical terror groups, such as the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front and the newly emerged (early 2013) Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), or Daesh, its Arabic acronym.

In the meantime, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died in 2015 and the new King Salman designated his son Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince in 2017, who seemingly took control over the system.

Following a crisis where Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain had put incredible pressure on Qatar, mainly because of their support for the Brotherhood, U.S. President Donald Trump paid a visit to Saudi Arabia and together with King Salman and Egyptian President Sisi, they swore to fight against “extremism” and signed history’s biggest sale of arms from the U.S. to the Saudis, worth $110 billion.

That was a move aimed not only at Qatar but at Iran as well, as Israel had been extremely nervous of Iran getting closer to its borders with Syria and Lebanon because of the Syrian war.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE have formed a front in the Middle East that has been supported by the U.S., who has given up attempting to export democracy to the Arab world through military interventions of popular revolutions. The U.S. now thinks pseudo-elections, won by so-called moderates (meaning serving U.S. interests), will work better for them, if not necessarily for the people of those countries.

With Sisi remaining in power, it is likely that Washington and Riyadh feel better.

Murat Yetkin, hdn, Opinion, Turkey