The Economist: It is hard to gauge the popularity of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, but most Egyptians seem to approve of their president. The turbulence of recent years, starting with the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and through the chaotic presidency of Muhammad Morsi, who was himself toppled in 2013, has left many longing for order and stability. Mr Sisi, a former general, has provided both. The sense of relief is captured in a catchphrase of pro-government types: “At least we are not Iraq or Syria.”
But at what price? As Mr Sisi has kept Egypt from descending into mayhem, he has unremittingly repressed critics. Several thousand dissidents, both secular and Islamist, have been jailed; at least a thousand were killed. “We don’t have the luxury to fight and feud,” says the president. But his authoritarian habits leave Egypt looking a lot as it did before the Arab spring, when Mr Mubarak, another military man, ruled with an iron first. The repression is even worse now, say many.
The Muslim Brotherhood of Mr Morsi has borne the brunt of the crackdown. Mr Sisi, the power behind the coup, has stripped the Islamist group of power and crushed it, labelling it a terrorist organisation. Hundreds of its supporters have been killed by state-security forces during protests. The politicised judiciary has handed down death sentences (many since commuted) to hundreds more. Mr Morsi got off relatively lightly on April 21st when he received a 20-year sentence for, ironically, inciting the killing of demonstrators in 2012. But he still faces two more capital charges.
Bemoaning the dismal political climate, several opposition parties decided to boycott parliamentary elections that had been scheduled for March. These would have been held in an “environment full of oppression, hatred and vendetta”, said the Building and Development Party, which is Islamist. The liberal Constitution Party criticised the government’s “grave human-rights violations”. The vote was postponed after the law governing it was found to be unconstitutional. Critics say that it was designed to create a parliament in thrall to the president, who continues to rule unchecked. But few think the new law, expected by the end of the year, will be fairer. [Continue reading…]