Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi says his country has completed a transition to democratic rule after years of turmoil since the uprising that brought down former president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Sisi made the remarks on Saturday as he addressed Egypt’s parliament for the first time since it was convened in January.
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“From this place, under parliament’s dome, the Egyptian people declare to the entire world that they have laid the foundation of a democratic system and rebuilt constitutional institutions,” the president said.
The speech, which came a day after a rare large-scale public protest took place against Egyptian authorities, was largely composed of generalities and a list of Egypt’s achievements under the president’s rule.
But despite the talk of democracy, analysts said the half-hour speech did little to assuage critics accusing the Sisi-led government of waging a brutal crackdown on opposition forces within the country.
Since 2013, Sisi’s government has imprisoned more than 40,000 people across the country, activists say. It has also implemented laws restricting street protests and press freedoms, as well as given the police vast powers.
Khalil al-Anani, associate professor of political science at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera that Sisi’s speech appeared to be directed purely at his supporters.
“I don’t think what he said today will materialise in any means, particularly when you speak about democracy and freedoms,” Anani said.
“It’s just rhetoric. Everybody knows that Egypt is not by any means on the right track for democracy.
“[Sisi] recognises that there is growing resentment against his rule and his government. He knows that his popularity is not what it used to be when he came to power.”
Egypt’s last parliament was dissolved in 2012 by the top court in the country, less than a year after it was elected in what was seen as the country’s first democratically elected chamber.
Mohamed Morsi attempted to reinstate the parliament after his election as president that year, but was shot down by the courts in a move seen to strengthen the military that deposed him a year later.
On Friday, thousands of doctors and their supporters gathered outside the Egyptian Medical Syndicate in Cairo, calling for the prosecution of police officers who allegedly assaulted two doctors last month in Cairo’s Matariya hospital, a northern district of the capital.
There are conflicting reports about what triggered the incident to occur, but Dr Ibrahim el-Zayat, president of the Dakahlia Medical Syndicate, said the assault took place after an injured police officer went to the hospital to treat a “minor” wound on January 28.
When he tried to interfere in the writing of the medical report about the wound, the doctors objected, Zayat said.
The police officer then allegedly attacked the doctors, before being joined by another police officer. The doctors were then taken by a group of officers to a nearby police station, Zayat said.
“Regardless of any disputes, it does not give anyone the right to violently assault the doctors,” he told Al Jazeera.
The policemen were questioned about the assault and then released, triggering Friday’s protest and an emergency meeting among doctors.
The meeting concluded with a list of demands, including requests for the government to ensure justice for the assaulted doctors and to introduce laws to better protect hospital staff from violence.
The syndicate’s list of demands also included the resignation of Egypt’s health minister, Ahmed Rady.
On Friday, the Arabic hashtag “support the doctors” trended on Twitter, reflecting support and anger from a large number of Egyptians.