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  • People walk in front of banners of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Sisi during preparations for the presidential election in Cairo, Egypt, March 25, 2018.

    People walk in front of banners of Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Sisi during preparations for the presidential election in Cairo, Egypt, March 25, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 March 2018

The only runner against President Sisi argues he is not a puppet chosen to make elections look legitimate but a look at his recent political positions suggest otherwise.

Egypt will hold its next presidential elections from March 26 to 28 and everyone seems to have a good idea as to who will win, and the only question in people's mind is just by how much.

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Following a series of arrests and intimidation strategies, all opposition candidates were denied their right to take part in the presidential race or had announced they were pulling out of it. Moussa Mustafa Moussa, the only candidate that will face off Egypt’s incumbent President Abdel Fattah Sisi in the next elections, in fact supports Egypt’s president and had actually campaigned in favor of this reelection.

Now, Moussa is having a hard time convincing the Egyptian people he’s not a puppet for the Egyptian government seeking to present a facade of a real election.

The first wave of social movements labeled as “the Arab Spring” led to the removal of Egypt's long-time leader Hosni Mubarak and the election of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s first democratically elected president in 2012. He was the head of Egypt’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist transnational organization with high presence in Egypt that was banned under former presidents but then allowed to join politics for a short time following the Arab Spring-inspired revolution.

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The brotherhood’s hospitals, schools, job opportunities and different kinds of social programs combined with a Pan-Islamic ideology that preached for a more just society appealed to most Egyptians in some way or another. That provided them with a loyal social base that gave them victory after the 2012 presidential elections.

But just one year after taking office, a damaged economy with no signs of recovery and Morsi’s apparent increasing desire for power translated into massive protests against the president that led to 48-hour ultimatum from the military and a subsequent coup d’etat.

People protested because they were worried about their immediate future and empowered by their recent past, but probably didn’t imagine what was about to happen. The military couldn’t stay away from power for more than one year and Sissi was the clear leader and winner from the coup against Morsi.

Abdel Fattah Sisi

Egypt’s current president is confident he will renew his contract. He won the 2014 presidential elections with 96.1 percent of the votes, taking back the country to the age of fake elections but starting a new phase of Egypt’s military regimes. His supporters see continuance and stability in him, somehow reminding of Hosni Mubarak’s era, which might be something the political and economic elites are after.

Abdel Fattah Sisi was born in 1954 in Cairo and graduated from the Military Academy in 1997. He spent a considerable amount of time abroad, as he served in Saudi Arabia and attended military courses in the United Kingdom and the United States.

He was appointed by Morsi as Egypt’s Minister of Defense and then orchestrated the coup with the help of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia and capitalizing on the massive protests. Under his command, security forces carried out one of the biggest massacres in recent history.

Supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood organized regular sit-ins in Cairo to protest the coup while Sisi was still in charge of the armed forces. On August 14, 2013, Sisi’s forces fired at sit-in protesters at the Nahda and the Rabaa squares, killing at least 817 people while they were praying.

He became president of Egypt one year later, and there’s little chance of protesting since then.

His government cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood, labeling it a terrorist organization and arresting its members. Morsi was charged of incitement to violence, terrorism, espionage and breaking from prison, and was put on death row, a sentence that was later overturned.

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The hope to achieve freedom of speech was sparked by millions of people flooding streets across the country utilizing both virtual and real networks of young people aspiring for a new democratic phase in their country's history. However, speaking up in Egypt is difficult under Sisi’s current military regime and intelligence services.

Even before Sisi took office, the Egyptian military was already doing everything in its power to control what is being said. In a leaked 2013 audio, Sisi can be heard saying the army had been concerned about controlling the media since Mubarak stepped down, to which one of his senior officers answered that they should “engage directly” by “terrorizing them or winning them over.”

Egypt’s current situation provides a clear evidence that the political establishment is happy with how smoothly things are running now.

Sisi cracked down on opponents, leaving him virtually alone in the presidential race. But that would’ve been suspicious considering he is a man trying to appeal to the international community in exchange for loans from the likes of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank amid a struggling economy. Thus he needed someone to run against him, but he found someone that’s running with him.

Moussa Mustafa Moussa

Moussa is the head of the Al Ghad (Arabic for “tomorrow”) liberal party and the only candidate that will face Sisi in the elections. He registered just 15 minutes before the registration period deadline, a little more than a week after announcing his intentions to run for president.

He was born in 1952 to a well-off family and studied architecture at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure D’architecture de Versailles, Paris. When he returned to Egypt he joined the New Wafd Party, but left to become the Vice Chairman of the Al Ghad party in 2005.

He is a liberal that believes “patriotic capitalism” will bring prosperity for Egypt.

Without any effort, Moussa collected about 47,000 signatures from all over the country in nine days and the endorsement of 20 Members of the Parliament he needed in order to officially become a presidential candidate, despite being virtually unknown by the Egyptian public and doing no campaigning whatsoever.

Critics of the current political situation in Egypt don't believe Moussa has honest intentions in running for president, since he has been an avid supporter of Sisi since the coup that ousted President Morsi in 2013, but he dismisses these claims saying he's no “naive man” who enters “into competition with the president and also support him.”

But Moussa in fact supported Sisi's campaign in 2014, which he won by a wide margin. In 2017 he launched a campaign calling for supporting Sisi in the 2018 presidential elections and was an active promoter of the president’s candidacy until he announced his intentions to run for president on Jan. 20.

“I wanted to vote for Sisi. I didn't intend to participate in the elections because Sisi was going to run for president and there were other aspiring candidates, but we thought we needed to participate because this changed,” Moussa told EFE in an interview at his Al Gad party headquarters.

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If Sisi had been the only candidate, the elections would have been “a dangerous process because nobody would have made a line to vote... besides, people could have proposed a boycott... and the Muslim Brotherhood want to attack us,” said Moussa, using the same narrative as the government’s on the opposition in the country.

Moussa swears he’s “no puppet” while at the same time he had declared he was running for president to make the elections seem democratic, which would otherwise look like a “referendum” on Sisi's presidency. He also says he’s a plausible alternative in the democratic process.

“We entered with the aim of winning. How we win it, I don’t know; with what kind of votes, I don’t know,” Moussa told The Guardian. “I think I have a chance. Doesn’t mean I’m sure.”

Moussa is sure the opposition is angry at him for spoiling their sabotage plans to make the elections look illegitimate. For him, the opposition are the ones trying to destroy democracy in Egypt, while he is the one protecting it by playing the alternative in the election.

The play has yet another act and the theater is stained with blood.

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