Egypt’s 2018 presidential elections offer little illusion of any outcome than incumbent Abdel-Fattah el Sisi’s certain reelection to a second term; any expectation for free and fair elections was lost after four years of unprecedented constriction of space for political organization, culminating with the elimination of any credible challenger to his rule. Even, theoretically, competitive elections could only produce this same result, not necessarily because of Sisi’s popularity but because under the umbrella of a war on terror, he has closed public space, passed broad legislation that facilitated the prosecution and imprisonment of thousands of political opponents, and tightened his grasp on state institutions.
At stake in this election is not only the current state of the country, but the next four years under Sisi’s approach to domestic governance and international relations. Understanding these implications requires understanding how we reached this stage: Sisi came with the promise of security, ending extremism, protecting minorities, and improving the economy. As this report demonstrates, the gap between Sisi’s rhetoric and reality only grew throughout his first term, as the policies adopted on these fronts most often contradicted his promises. More concerning, the trends outlined herein indicate that they will leading to further deterioration in these arenas.
Beyond stating the obvious of deterioration of the state, the report details the effects of Sisi’s form of governance on state institutions and sociopolitical dynamics.
The five sections of the report describe:
Legal and Political Institutions: Stressing the absence of real representative government, broadening legislation that undermines rule of law, erosion of state institutions, and increasing influence of the security apparatus;
Security, Terrorism, and Extremism: Showing mutual escalation between terror groups and the state, the intractability of conflict in Sinai, and changes to an increasingly unipolar security apparatus;
Economic Development: Exploring positive signs in macroeconomic trends, the necessity for and implications of the International Monetary Fund loan and associated reform package, and concerns around a broader economic development strategy;
Gender and Sexuality: Highlighting gains made for women (and their limits) and the stalling of progress for those who do not conform to the state’s or society’s conception of gender and sexuality;
Rights and Freedoms: Raising concerns about the restriction of freedoms of association, press, and expression, the use of torture with impunity, and impediments to due process.
The report demonstrates how these dynamics are leading to a perilous corrosion of the fundamental “social contract” on which a modern state depends to govern citizens. The lack of separation of power and the confinement of the ruling elite to a narrow circle of military and security officials are not just clear signs of bad governance, but are damaging to Sisi’s presidency himself and Egypt’s stability. This insular approach will only further the fragility of this regime internally and make it difficult for international partners to engage with Egypt beyond the security apparatus.