In late September, Egypt’s Electoral Commission announced that the country will hold presidential elections in mid-December of this year. On Monday, October 3, incumbent President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced that he would run for a third term. A constitutional referendum in 2019 changed presidential term lengths from four years to six years, and handed Sisi a clean slate, permitting him to run for two additional terms under the new arrangement. Sisi could be in power until 2034.
Sisi took power in 2013 through a popular military takeover that deposed Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi. Since then, his regime has cracked down on dissent, with tens of thousands of his political opponents (like Alaa Abd el-Fattah) jailed. Economically, Sisi handed the levers of the economy to his comrades in the junta, ballooning the country’s public debt by building scores of grandiose, white elephant projects. For ordinary people, the price of basic commodities has soared as economic restructuring by the IMF looms.
The election in December is expected to be a foregone conclusion in favor of Sisi. In early October when he announced his candidacy, Sisi addressed the dire economic situation by exclaiming, “By God almighty, if the price of the nation’s progressing and prospering is that it doesn’t eat and drink as others do, then we won’t eat and drink.” This angered Egyptians and in some parts of the country (like Marsa Matrouh), spontaneous protests broke out.
Is Egypt on the verge of another uprising? What space is there for dissidents, both on the street and on the ballot box? Do Sisi’s challengers—like Ahmed Tantawi—have any chance of rallying opposition against him? Joining us on the podcast to discuss all this is Hossam el-Hamalawy, an Egyptian journalist and scholar-activist, currently based in Germany. Hossam has written for various outlets, including the Guardian, New York Times, Jacobin, Middle East Eye, New Arab, Al-Jazeer, and others. He also maintains a regular newsletter on Egyptian politics on Substack.