Egypt’s President to secure 3rd Term as World’s eyes are on Gaza

By DailyNewsUg

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is expected to secure his third term in power in a Sunday presidential election that critics have called a sham, as global attention is focused on the bloody war in neighboring Gaza.

The 69-year-old president has enjoyed two months of a pause in criticism from Western allies over his authoritarian rule and heightened crackdown on dissent, experts say, attributing the shift to Sisi’s renewed diplomatic relevance on the international stage due to the Israel-Hamas war.

Several top Western officials have paid Sisi visits since the war began, including United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

Palestinians cross to the Egyptian side of the border crossing with the Gaza Strip Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. in Rafah Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)
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HA Hellyer, nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in London, said that Cairo has historically been “a critical interlocutor for the international community in general when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

“As the Israeli-Palestinian question diminished in importance in many policy arenas, which was clearly a fundamentally flawed approach, so did Cairo’s geopolitical weight,” Hellyer told CNN, adding that with the Palestinian issue now prominently back in discussions, “there is a new prioritization internationally for good and comprehensive contact with Egypt.”

Egypt controls the Rafah crossing, the sole remaining link between the Gaza Strip – which Hamas controls – and the outside world. Egyptian officials have played mediation roles in previous wars between Israel and Hamas, as Cairo maintains diplomatic ties with both sides. During the current conflict, Egypt’s good offices have been used to deliver crucial aid into Gaza and to help secure the release of some of the hostages held there by Hamas since its militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting more than 240 others.

Egypt has also helped foreign nationals escape the carnage in Gaza, along with injured Palestinians. More than 17,000 Palestinians have so far been killed in Gaza, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah, which cites sources from the Hamas-controlled enclave. Aid has also been able to trickle into Gaza through Rafah.

Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi carry his posters during a march in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. Egypt will hold a presidential election over three days in December, with President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi highly likely to prolong his stay in power until 2030. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Supporters of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi carry his posters during a march in Cairo, Egypt on October 2.
Amr Nabil/AP
Meanwhile, Sisi is moving to quietly secure another presidential term with little to no opposition at home or abroad, critics say.

“There are no elections. There is electoral theater,” Timothy Kaldas, deputy director of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC, told CNN, citing the lack of viable opposition to Sisi.

The former field marshal rose to power in 2013 after overthrowing Mohamed Morsy, Egypt’s only democratically elected president, in a military coup. Sisi ran for president in 2014 and 2018, winning both elections with a sweeping majority. In 2019, his government passed constitutional amendments that permitted him to run for a third term.

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“The terrible violence we’re witnessing (in Gaza) helped Sisi divide the attention of the public from their domestic concerns onto what’s happening, particularly the Palestinians in Gaza,” Kaldas said. “And as a result, somewhat reduce the level of focus on their own domestic plight, particularly their economic struggles.”

Egypt has also spent the past two months reminding its international partners of how “vitally important” it is, Kaldas said. Egypt can say: “See the useful role we play in negotiations and facilitation of the humanitarian assistance that needs to go to Gaza,” he added.

 

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