General Abdul Fattah el-Sisi has won most of the votes of Egyptians who live overseas. And many feel he is likely to dominate the upcoming presidential election on May 26-27. There are a number of reasons why these Egyptians believe Sisi may be the right choice for the top job.
First, many of Sisi’s supporters feel that a man with a military and intelligence background is necessary to restore security and stability to Egypt. They justify this view by pointing to the fact that military leaders provided far better security and stability than the newly formed democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example.
Second, some see Sisi as a political figure with a realistic programme, and one who does not give in to empty rhetoric and false promises. Many Egyptians still remember former President Mohamed Morsi’s failure to deliver on his electoral promises to make significant improvements to the country during his first 100 days in office.
They also remember the absurd promise made by Hamdeen Sabahi, the other candidate in the presidential race, to give each young man 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,400) if elected. Not only does the Egyptian treasury not have the extra funds to fulfil the task (an estimated cost of 300 billion pounds), but an equal distribution of such vast sums of money – if it were at all realistic – would be rather irresponsible.
Third, others see Sisi as a man with a strong loyalty to Egypt. His military background adds weight to this perception. There has been a resurgence in nationalism and an increasing feeling that loyalty to the country is of the utmost importance. This is partly due to some Egyptians’ perception that Morsi’s own loyalties were divided between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian people.
Fourth, many Egyptians believe that Sisi is a sensible thinker – they look to the fact that he takes time to respond to questions and make decisions. He is seen as a man who will not be guided by raw emotions or politics and who will not make rash decisions that may be harmful to the country.
Fifth, another factor that appears to be encouraging many Egyptians to choose Sisi is his previous position as the head of the Egyptian military. Sisi’s successful military leadership gives hope to many Egyptians that he can lead the country as well. This, of course, is in contrast to Sabahi, who has shown no evidence whatsoever that he can lead an organisation as large and disciplined as the Egyptian military, much less a nation.
Sixth, Sisi’s timely intervention to remove Morsi from power in response to the will of millions of Egyptians who were unhappy with the direction their country was heading, earned him the reputation of “saviour of Egypt”, protecting the nation from falling into the hands of another “Taliban”.
Seventh, many moderate Muslims are supporting Sisi because he has taken a clear stand against Islamist radicalism and has expressed a genuine desire to support a peaceful understanding of Islam. In fact, he is considered by many to be the first president who has clearly expressed such a position. His use of Quranic verses to encourage freedom of belief and his honest confrontation of the problem of radicalism, are giving hope to many that Egypt can progress and move forward.
Eighth, another factor that encouraged Sisi supporters to choose him is their feeling that he never tried to buy votes by giving promises to the people. This put Sisi in a distinctly different position from Morsi who had promised Egyptians that he would bring $200bn to the country if he was elected in the 2012 presidential race. Similarly, supporters of Morsi such as Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi promised the Egyptians that Egypt will receive if they said yes to the Islamist constitution during Morsi’s time. None of these promises has been fulfilled. The lack of such promises by Sisi actually worked for him in a positive manner as it made many see him as an ethical man who is not ready to buy people’s support by giving them a “bribe” to buy their votes. Sabahi’s promises to give 10,000 Egyptian pounds and a piece of land to every young man in the country put him in the same category as Morsi who tried to buy votes by giving specific financial promises to the voters.
Ninth, Sisi’s dignified handling of the conflict with the US administration after the June 30 revolution, and the fact that he was able to restore US support for the Egyptian military – while at the same time restarting relations with Russia – made many see him as a very astute, intelligent, rational and balanced political player who can lead the country down the right path. Gaining the support of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain just added more trust in his ability to maintain a balanced foreign policy.
And finally, there are those who have gone so far as to compare Sisi to Mohamed Ali Pasha, founder of modern Egypt. Sisi appears to share the trifold creed of the pasha: a vision to create a modern state, a genuine love for his country and an ability to make serious decisions. Indeed, for overseas voters, Sisi appears to represent hope for the future of Egypt.
Dr Tawfik Hamid is an Islamic political thinker and reformer.