Egypt: more of the same

Interview with Cairo University professor Mustafa Kamel Al-Sayed – published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Khaled Dawoud, May 28, 2015 … (he) has spent years battling for a modern, democratic state. Under Hosni Mubarak he was a leading member of Kifaya and of the National Association for Change, groups in the vanguard of protests that eventually led to the end of Mubarak’s 30-year rule … (about) his hopes and fears … //

… Does Al-Sisi act in such a way because he believes the country is in a state of war against terrorism?  

  • I understand the president must consult military people on matters of national security. Yet the fingerprints of the military are not restricted to the confrontation against the Muslim Brothers. Think of the so-called mega projects. Such major developments require consultation with experts and advisers from different backgrounds yet even here the army had the major say.
  • I think it was a mistake to consult with the military over the election law. When Minister of Transitional Justice Ibrahim Al-Heneidi was asked about the extent of changes that would have to be made to the election law he said clearly that any alterations would have to be passed by the president. It was obvious Al-Sisi has specific views on the election law. It is one of those issues where he would have done well to listen to a range of experts, including politicians, rather than cook the legislation in the presidency’s own kitchen.

Al-Sisi came to power after two popular revolts, on 25 January, 2011 and 30 June, 2013. Egypt has changed since then and people are more aware of their rights. Do you think this should have influenced the way he rules or does the war on terror take precedence over everything else?

  • Even the war on terror requires the building of a consensus.
  • Many people voted for Al-Sisi because they thought he would bring stability and security. During his election campaign a number of prominent politicians — Amr Moussa, Abdel-Gelil Mustafa and Khaled Youssef among others — were part of his team. As soon as he became president these associations stopped.
  • Newspapers known to support the president began criticising these people. Amr Moussa was attacked by newspapers close to the government. Abdel-Gelil Mustafa found himself with no way of contacting the president. I wonder why the president excised these people from his circle. The only explanation I can think of is that Al-Sisi’s loyalty does not extend beyond the army.
  • He doesn’t seem to feel comfortable away from the methods he used while he was chief of military intelligence and later minister of defence.

Al-Sisi was elected in the hope his military background would help restore security. Has the security situation improved since he came to power?

  • Definitely. We no longer see the massive demonstrations that were held immediately following Morsi’s removal. There are still demonstrations by the Brotherhood but they are mainly in provinces outside Cairo and small in scale.
  • Personal security has also improved. There was a period when people did not feel safe going out because of fears of attacks by organised criminal gangs. This is not the case now. There are still terrorist attacks, particularly in Sinai, by groups like Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis and Ajnad Misr. There are other attacks — blowing up electricity pylons, targeting public transport — that I guess are carried out by Brotherhood sympathisers. These tend to be sporadic and local … //

… How much improvement have we seen in the economy under Al-Sisi?

  • Not much. In fact most people feel their standard of living is deteriorating because of inflation, a fact official statistics, which estimate that Egypt’s GDP will grow at the rate of 4.2 per cent, fail to reflect. The same thing happened under Mubarak. People simply did not feel the improvements the statistics purported to show. Indeed, there are doubts that unemployment has fallen in the way government figures claim.
  • The government continues to point to positive macroeconomic indicators while glossing over major macroeconomic concerns. The budget deficit, balance of payments and falls in foreign currency reserves have all reached critical levels. Crisis has only been headed off because of deposits Arab Gulf countries placed in the Central Bank … //

… During Mubarak’s last years in office a small number of tycoon businessmen, led by his son Gamal, were in effective control of the economy. Are we in the same situation now?

  • It is not clear how much the private sector in Egypt trusts the government. There seems to be a problem between the private sector and Al-Sisi. Newspapers supportive of the president have accused businessmen of not responding to Al-Sisi’s call to contribute money to the Long Live Egypt Fund. Clearly there is a problem that did not exist under Mubarak when the private sector was very responsive to his demands, and those of his wife and son.
  • There is a perception that Al-Sisi prefers to rely on the Armed Forces to carry out mega projects. I’m not just talking about the widening of the Suez Canal but also the development of the Suez Canal Zone and the project to build one million housing units that is being financed by the United Arab Emirates. Businessmen are simply not as close to Al-Sisi as they were to Mubarak and his son … //

… Should we expect more of the same during Al-Sisi’s second year or are there signs of change?

  • I don’t see any sign that things are going to change. Even if parliamentary elections are held the election law will ensure the new parliament is dominated by independent candidates whose aim in running is to cosy up to the government. Political parties will form a minority.

(full interview text).


Breaking the Resistance: How Brussels Is Integrating Its Euro-Skeptics, on Spiegel Online International, by Manfred Ertel, Julia Amalia Heyer and Christoph Scheuermann in Brussels and Strasbourg, June 1, 2015 (Photo Gallery): One year ago, more euro-skeptics got elected to the European Parliament than ever before, including a number of MEPs from Austria, Britain, France and Greece. They wanted to attack Europe from within, but instead the EU transformed them;

A Real Threat – ISDS, on Dissident Voice, by Ron Forthofer, June 1, 2015;

Erdogan’s Challenger: The Man Who Could Save Turkish Democracy, on Spiegel Online International, by on Spiegel Online International, by Hasnain Kazim, June 1, 2015 (Photo Gallery): If the governing party of Turkish President Recep Erdogan wins the June elections, it will likely amend the constitution to solidify his power. Selahattin Demirtas may be the only man who can stop him …;


  • Greece says financing agreed to extend Russian gas pipeline, on EurActiv (en, fr, de), June 2, 2015: … the financing of the extension of a pipeline carrying Russian gas from Turkey to Greece has been secured and a deal could be signed this month, the Greek energy minister said Monday (1 June) …;
  • video – Grexit 101: How Greece could drop out of the euro, 4.24 min, on CNN/money, by Ivana Kottasova, June 1, 2015;
  • Angela Merkel’s fear of Russia could turn her into Greece’s unlikely guardian, on Business Insider UK, by Mke Bird, May 27, 2015: the potential for a Greek exit from the eurozone has probably never looked this real. The government is running out of cash and doesn’t seem to have enough for its next International Monetary Fund payment …;
  • Russia Invites Greece To Join BRICS Bank As Greek Financial Crisis Deepens – Report, on International Business Times, India, by Aditya Tejas, May 12, 2015: Russia on Monday invited Greece to become the sixth member of the new regional bank for the BRICS countries that include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The invitation was extended during a phone conversation between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Russia’s Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a government source …;
  • Greece & Turkish Stream: Athens in Russia vs West, investment s debt dilemma, on Russia Today RT, May 11, 2015: To solve its financial problems Greece needs to have foreign investment which could come from Russia, but if the Greeks choose the West it means only future debt, says Patrick Henningsen, a geopolitical Analyst at …;
  • U.S. Urges Greece to Reject Russian Energy Project, on NYT, by James Kanter, May 8, 2015: ATHENS — The United States, wading into the international efforts to shape Greece’s economic and geopolitical orientation, is pushing the leftist government in Athens to resist Russia’s energy overtures …;
  • Putin Tells Greece Financial Aid Is Tied to Russian Pipeline, on WSJ, by , May 8, 2015: Russian President says help depends on Athens signing up to gas pipeline to Europe …;


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