Why Egyptians back El-Sissi

By: Sarah Eltantawi

Former army chief Abdel Fattah El-Sissi won the presidential elections in Egypt this week, almost a year after Egypt’s military reasserted formal control following widespread revolts against Muhammad Mursi.

Why is El-Sissi going to be Egypt”s next president? Few observers outside Egypt understand the reason for El-Sissi’s popularity, which is based largely on the desire for security. Many Egyptians feel that the country has become chaotic: If forced to choose between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, they prefer the military. The military has more experience, national loyalty and respect for Egypt as a country, rather than part of a wider pan-Islamic region. Its view of Islam is more mainstream.

Many Egyptians also see the military as better equipped to improve the country’s struggling economy. It controls as much as 40 percent of the Egyptian economy, through military-run factories, food production factories and land ownership. Currently, the country depends on aid from Gulf nations, while crucial sectors like tourism are suffering. Reserves are quickly running out.

The violence in neighboring Syria and Libya that turned into armed insurgencies has also had an impact on voters. Because these countries have suffered from armed revolutions against military regimes, many Egyptians believe that the present order is far better than the scenarios that have played out next door. They would prefer the state to offer some semblance of order and unity.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which, following the ouster of Mubarak, was seen as an appealing alternative, is a less attractive option for a number of reasons. It has threatened a moderate version of Islam that is valued by Egyptians. And when the group assumed power in June 2012, it was unable to address Egypt’s deep structural problems — ranging from endemic corruption, to chronic unemployment, to deep religious divisions — choosing instead to stack the country’s institutions with its members.

For pro-Sissi Egyptians, a vote for their candidate is a vote against chaos — until, one hopes, forward-thinking revolutionary groups, together with allies in civil society, can offer an alternative.





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