Egypt’s Presidential Elections and El Sisi’s Road Ahead

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Middle East Policy Council

Egyptians went to the voting booths this Monday to vote in their country’s presidential elections. Despite some skepticism about the fairness of the vote and some condemnation on the part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the elections will most likely give Abdel Fattah El Sisi the legitimacy he needs to consolidate his power. But questions still remain about the country’s stability and the policies the new president will implement going forward, including with regards to Israel and Syria.

Writing for the Daily News Egypt, Wael Eskandar sounds a skeptical tone with regards to the fairness of the presidential elections, commenting that “It is no longer necessary to wait for the actual voting process to determine whether the upcoming elections will be free and fair. The idea of fair elections has been dispelled by the manner in which the current regime has operated on a variety of issues. While the counting itself may eventually be free and transparent, it is clear that the idea of fairness has been completely undermined. There is no need to falsify election results through fraudulent elections if Egyptian public opinion has been manipulated and its dissenting voices suppressed.”

On the other hand, judging from the display of support on the street, El Sisi seems to have already won the legitimacy argument. For example, The National’s Kristen McTighe finds a groundswell of support for the former military leader among women voters: “At election rallies across Egypt, female supporters of Abdel Fattah El Sisi are seen weeping as they profess their undying love for the former army chief. The image is repeated on state and private media with swooning women flooding the pages of newspapers and television screens. As Egyptians prepare to vote on Monday in their second presidential election since 2011, Mr El Sisi’s fervent support from women, many of whom see him as the country’s saviour from the Muslim Brotherhood, has played a significant role in making him the clear front-runner.”

Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood leaders outside of Egypt have continued to encourage their supporters to stay away from the voting booths. Tehran Times staff wrote over the weekend that “The influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi on Sunday called on Egyptians to boycott presidential elections and shun front-runner Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, saying the former army chief had ‘disobeyed God.’ The Egyptian-born cleric, who has close links to the Muslim Brotherhood and whose religious shows on Al Jazeera television were watched by millions, has been critical of Egypt’s military-backed government, accusing Sisi of betrayal for ousting Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last year….Meanwhile, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader warned that government oppression in Egypt is fanning militancy that will pose a threat abroad unless the army-backed authorities start respecting freedom and human rights.”

But, some have now accused the Muslim Brotherhood of having lost the plot, with Al Ahram’s Hussein Haridy leading the charge: “Some leading figures in the Muslim Brotherhood, who fled the country after 30 June 2013, announced in Brussels earlier this month a list of principles they labeled the ‘Brussels Document’….The document spoke of rolling back the results of what it called the ‘military coup’ and the restoration of the ‘democratic process.’ In the meantime, it called on the army to go back to the barracks and to remain neutral as far as politics is concerned, and to desist from political alignment with any particular side….What is striking about this document is the complete absence to any references to the 30 June Revolution that set in motion the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood from power. The absence comes as no surprise. Throughout the last 11 months, the propaganda machine of the Brotherhood has centered on the ‘coup’ they allege took place in Cairo.”

Despite the seemingly assured outcome of the presidential elections, Mr. El Sisi must brace himself for some difficult choices both on the domestic and international front. On the international front, Ahmed Eleiba argues that one of the main challenges that the new president will face, will be the question of the cold peace with Israel and Egypt’s relationship with Hamas: “It is noteworthy in this regard that, when asked whether Hamas was an enemy of Egypt, Al-Sisi chose to remain silent. He was, however, careful to disassociate developments in the Egyptian relationship with Hamas from the Palestinian cause as a whole. ‘I want to tell Egyptians, don’t let the situation and mood that is taking shape toward Hamas affect your historical position with respect to the Palestinian cause,’ Al-Sisi said….Al-Sisi’s reticence on the question of the Camp David annexes should not be taken as indication of a willingness to appease Israel. Perhaps the clearest indication of his position is a statement in which he said that he would not visit Israel until there was a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem….Al-Sisi’s positions reflect the Egyptian military creed which holds that Egypt cannot depend solely on its peace agreement with Israel which, if no longer a major enemy, remains a major potential enemy.”

 Asharq Alawsat’s Bakir Oweida discusses in a recent article Egypt’s ambivalent policy towards Gaza and suggests that little is likely to change in the coming months: “A second question about President Sisi’s likely foreign policy revolves around how his administration would deal with Gaza. It is no secret that the people of Gaza have high hopes that Sisi’s Egypt would end the suffering caused by the ongoing closure of the Rafah border crossing. These hopes were revived—even increased—following the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah. Rumors about Egyptian support for one side or the other have since subsided, or at least not increased. These are confrontations that have been raging for more than 40 years, and every time the Palestinians optimistically believe that such score-settling is behind them it rears its ugly head once more.”

Then finally, there is the question of Egypt’s relationship with Syria, a country with which Egypt has had a fraught relationship: “Sisi can’t be compared with Assad nor there exists any similarity between Egypt’s presidential elections this month and those of Syria slated for June 3. Maybe this prologue can serve as a response to those who see presidential elections in both countries as similar in many ways. However, what matters most is Sisi’s attitude towards Assad and the nature of the Egyptian-Syrian relationship when the two leading candidates are at Cairo’s al- Ittihadiya and Damascus’ Qasr ash-Shaab presidential palaces….The question now is would we see a continuation of such a troubling Egyptian-Syrian relationship when Sisi and Assad are in office? The answer is seemingly yes.”

Click here to read previous installments of Middle East In Focus


Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: Comments and feedback are welcome at


  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Scroll to Top