Egypt's Sisi: an autocrat in the making?
Publish Date: May 21, 2014
Egypt's Sisi: an autocrat in the making?
Egypts presidential frontrunner, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
  • mail
  • img

CAIRO - Egypt's presidential frontrunner may come across as a polished civilian after shedding his military uniform, but his brutal crackdown on opponents has raised fears of a slide back into autocracy.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last July, is so sure of victory in the May 26-27 election that he has not even unveiled his election programme.

The 59-year-old became Egypt's most popular political figure and de facto head of state after leading the July 3 ouster of Morsi following massive rallies demanding the Islamist's resignation.

A subsequent brutal crackdown on Morsi's supporters killed at least 1,400 people and jailed thousands.

Since campaigning began on May 3, Sisi has preferred to address the people through television interviews, appearing in crisp suits and often smiling.

Sisi has said that for him, "national security" takes precedence over democratic freedoms.

It could take "20 to 25 years to achieve true democracy," he told Egyptian newspaper editors in an interview.

Such remarks have sparked concern of a return to autocracy worse than under Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by a popular uprising in early 2011.

Sisi himself served as Mubarak's military intelligence chief, the youngest officer to hold the post.

Mubarak's successor Morsi promoted Sisi to defence minister in what was seen at the time as an assertion of civilian control over the military, which ruled between Mubarak's overthrow and Morsi's election in June 2012.

Since the government was installed by the military last July after Morsi's ouster, more than 1,400 people have been killed in a crackdown on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

More than 15,000 people have been jailed, with hundreds sentenced to death after cursory trials, triggering widespread international outrage.

The crackdown has also seen secular-leaning activists who revolted against Mubarak jailed for organising unlicensed protests.

- A nationalist icon -

Sisi said that Egypt cannot be compared to Western democracies, and that it could take more than two decades to achieve "true democracy" in the Arab world's most populous nation.

Egyptians walk past a campaign poster of Egyptian ex-army chief and leading presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi hanging on a building in Fayyum some 100 kilometres south of Cairo on May 20, 2014. Sisi is so sure of victory in the May 26-27 election that he has not addressed any public rallies in person or even revealed his election programme. AFP PHOTO

His actions against the Brotherhood have seen Sisi emerge as a nationalist icon in the mould of Egypt's first modern military ruler, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Sisi and Nasser, the charismatic colonel who deposed King Farouk in 1952 and led Egypt until his death in 1970, both rode to popularity overseeing crackdowns on the Islamist movement.

But unlike Nasser, a champion of pan-Arabism whose speeches brought people onto the streets, Sisi has kept a lower profile.

His supporters see him as a tough leader able to restore stability and kick-start an economic recovery after years of unrest.

But his opponents in the Brotherhood despise him.

"CC (Sisi's name in graffiti shorthand) is a killer" reads one slogan scrawled on walls in Cairo by Morsi supporters.

However, such slogans are dwarfed by the ubiquitous image of a uniformed Sisi plastered on walls, car windows and even on cakes in bakeries.

To his supporters, Sisi is a pious and humble man of the people, who addresses them in colloquial rather than classical Arabic.

An aide told AFP that Sisi prays five times a day in accordance with Islamic practice and that his wife, like most Egyptian Muslim women, covers her hair with a headscarf.

Sisi often invokes religious sentiments in his speeches, and during studies at the US Army War College in 2006, he wrote a thesis saying that support from Islamic opinion makers was crucial for democratic governance in the Middle East.

This has won him the support of the Salafist Al-Nur party, a former Brotherhood ally.

Morsi supporters compare him to a pharaoh and to villains of Islamic lore.

Sisi, who has four children, was born in 1954 near the Hussein mosque, a pilgrimage site in Cairo's old city, and entered the military academy in 1977.


The statements, comments, or opinions expressed through the use of New Vision Online are those of their respective authors, who are solely responsible for them, and do not necessarily represent the views held by the staff and management of New Vision Online.

New Vision Online reserves the right to moderate, publish or delete a post without warning or consultation with the author.Find out why we moderate comments. For any questions please contact

  • mail
  • img
blog comments powered by Disqus
Also In This Section
Turkey shoots down Russian war plane on Syria border
NATO member Turkey on Tuesday shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border, threatening a major spike in tensions between two key protagonists in the four-year Syria civil war....
US issues global travel alert due to
The United States issued a worldwide travel alert on Monday warning American citizens of "increased terrorist threats" in the wake of the Paris attacks...
Mali in mourning as siege hotel yields clues
FRENCH and UN investigators joined a Mali police probe into a jihadist siege at a luxury hotel that left at least 19 dead as flags were lowered for three days of mourning...
Five arrests in new Belgium anti-terror raids: prosecutor
Belgian police arrested five more people in a new series of anti-terrorism raids Monday, prosecutors said as the capital Brussels was locked down for a third day under a state of maximum alert....
Brussels stays at top security alert over fears of Paris-style attack
Brussels will remain at the highest possible alert level Monday, with schools, universities and metros closed over a "serious and imminent" threat of attacks similar to those that struck Paris, the Belgian prime minister said....
Shooting in New Orleans leaves 10 injured
At least 10 people have been injured in New Orleans in a melee that erupted Sunday as hundreds of people packed a park to film a music video, local television reported...
Is Uganda ready for the pope's visit?
Can't Say
follow us
subscribe to our news letter