In the last month of 2023, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi was very busy. On December 25, he had a phone call with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed. Mohammed congratulated Sisi on his re-election and emphasized that Saudi Arabia looks forward to strengthening cooperation with Egypt. Sisi said that Egypt hopes to strengthen bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia in various fields.
Two days ago, Sisi received a call from Iranian President Raisi. Sources from the Egyptian Presidential Palace said that the two leaders exchanged views on resolving outstanding issues between the two countries and developments in the Gaza Strip. Leahy congratulated Sisi on his third election as president. Leahy said that Iran is willing to do its best to promote a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and provide assistance to the Palestinian people.
In November 2023, Sisi and Raisi met during the special joint summit of Arab-Islamic leaders held in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Mohammed was the host of that summit. Today, against the backdrop of the intensifying Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the interactions between the leaders of the three regional powers in the Middle East surrounding Sisi’s re-election have attracted attention.
On December 18, 2023, Sisi won the presidential election for the third time. In his victory speech, he said that he was fully aware of the challenges facing Egypt: “I reiterate my belief that the real heroes in overcoming these challenges are the great Egyptian citizens who resisted terrorism and withstood the impact of economic reforms with determination and consciousness. and wisdom to survive the crisis.”
According to Egyptian official data, the turnout for this election reached 66.8%, much higher than the 41.5% in the 2018 election. In 2014, Sisi won the election with 96.91% of the vote. In 2018, he was re-elected with 97% of the vote. This time, he received 89.6% of the vote. On the eve of the vote, Agence France-Presse reported in a report that “there is no doubt that Sisi will win a third term.”
Sisi faces three competitors in this election, but none of them are strong contenders for Sisi. “Global People” reporters observed in Egypt that Egyptian people generally support Sisi and believe that people’s wages have generally increased since he came to power, and the minimum wage has also been raised. Although the country still faces inflation problems, overall, Sisi has brought more benefits to the people than disadvantages. At the same time, although there are many political parties in Egypt, many of them are seriously corrupt and their leaders lack experience in governing the country, making it difficult for them to win the trust of voters.
Dong Bing, a researcher at the Middle East Institute of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said Sisi’s political status is unmatched in Egypt. After he came to power, he quickly ended the turmoil in Egypt after the “Arab Spring”. After 10 years in power, Egypt’s military, administration, judiciary, media, etc. are now under his control, and few domestic opposition forces have emerged. He has rich electoral experience and has won two presidential elections and two constitutional referendums since taking office. This round of Palestine-Israel conflict has also boosted Sisi’s election prospects, shifting the public’s focus from economic woes to security threats. Many voters believe that a strong leader like Sisi can better lead the country to withstand the impact of regional chaos. In Sisi’s own words, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict threatens Egypt’s national security, and the election results demonstrate the Egyptian people’s “strong rejection of this inhumane war.”
In October 2023, Egypt launched a summit on the Palestinian issue, also known as the “Cairo Peace Summit.” In his opening speech, Sisi strongly opposed the deportation of Palestinians to Egyptian territory. Dong Bing said that on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, Sisi actively strived for a ceasefire between Palestine and Israel, facilitated hostage negotiations, and coordinated the entry and exit of materials and personnel into Gaza through the Rafah port bordering Egypt. However, he was cautious about accepting Gaza refugees, which enhanced Egypt’s The international influence is in line with the mainstream public opinion in Egypt seeking security and stability, which has brought benefits to Sisi’s election.
As a leader with a military background, Sisi was pushed to the presidency by Egypt’s historical trend of seeking stability.
On July 23, 1952, the “Free Officers Organization” headed by Nasser overthrew the Farouk dynasty and declared the establishment of the Republic of Egypt in June of the following year. Sisi said that his childhood idol was Nasser. “He is not only a portrait hanging on the walls of Egyptians, but also a voice engraved in our hearts.”
In 1967, Egypt was defeated in the Second Middle East War. Sisi, who was 13 years old at the time, had ambitions to join the army. In 1977, he entered the army after graduating from the Egyptian Military Academy. In the next nearly 30 years, he studied in British and American military academies and served successively as battalion commander, brigade commander, division commander and military region commander. In the eyes of acquaintances, he has a gentle personality, is good at public speaking, and has strong social skills.
In 2011, Sisi became the youngest member of the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces. At this time, the gears of his and the country’s destiny were turning. At the end of 2010, the death of a Tunisian businessman became the trigger for the “Arab Spring”. As political turmoil spread, Egypt’s political scene underwent drastic changes. President Mubarak, who had been in power for 30 years, was forced to resign as president and was tried and detained. In June 2012, Morsi from the “Muslim Brotherhood” was elected president. Two months later, Sisi was appointed defense minister.
Initially, Sisi and Morsi had a good relationship. But soon, differences emerged between the two sides on issues such as the Syrian civil war. In June 2013, large-scale political demonstrations broke out in Egypt, and conflicts between Morsi’s supporters and opponents continued. In order to avoid further intensification of the conflict, Sisi issued an “ultimatum” on July 1 of that year, requiring both parties to the conflict to resolve the crisis within 48 hours.
On July 3, the “ultimatum” deadline expired, and the conflict between the two sides continued. After communicating with Morsi to no avail, Sisi made a decision: to depose Morsi, end the street conflicts, let the military take power, and announce a new political road map, promising to hold elections in 2014. . Sisi said: “If we (the military) do not intervene, this (referring to the street conflict) will turn into a civil war.”
Polls at the time showed that most Egyptians supported Sisi, and some even regarded him as a “Hero of national salvation”. In March 2014, Sisi announced his resignation as defense minister and participated in the Egyptian presidential election held in the same year. Two months later, he was elected president in a landslide. This was the beginning of Sisi’s presidential career.
Dong Bing said that the outbreak of the “Arab Spring” plunged Egyptian society into turmoil. After Sisi came to power, he relied on the power of the military to quickly end the chaos, allowing Egypt to quickly escape the impact of the “Arab Spring”. Egypt’s rapid stabilization was in sharp contrast to countries such as Libya that were mired in civil war.
Ten years in power During
Sisi’s ten years in power, “stability” has been the most distinctive theme, and seeking development while maintaining stability has been his policy choice.
For a decade, Sisi has maintained a tight grip on the opposition and maintained stability in the country. At the same time, we will severely crack down on domestic terrorist forces and strictly prohibit the spread of extremist ideas.
Diplomatically, Sisi was in a difficult situation when he was accused of “coup” and “suppression” by the United States and Western countries when he first came to power. However, he adopts a balanced, diverse and pragmatic foreign policy and actively demonstrates Egypt’s identity as a major country in the Middle East and Africa and its important geostrategic value internationally. Through Sisi’s diplomatic efforts, Egypt has maintained good relations with major world powers and has participated extensively in multilateral cooperation mechanisms such as the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which has expanded Egypt’s strategic development space and continued its international influence. Nowadays, the international community generally attaches great importance to Egypt’s role as a “security pillar” in the region, recognizes Egypt’s important role in international hot issues such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and believes that Sisi’s continued power and maintenance of Egypt’s stability are in the interests of all parties.
In order to maintain social stability, the Sisi government has cooperated with international financial institutions to launch a series of social security projects. For example, the “Solidarity and Dignity” project launched in 2015 provides social security for low-income families, young parents, senior citizens and people with disabilities. As of 2022, this project has covered 17 million poor people, accounting for approximately 16% of Egypt’s total population. The Sisi government has made good achievements in eradicating poverty and hunger, reducing dropout rates and ensuring water supply and other livelihood issues.
Sisi’s government is also actively developing the energy industry. When Sisi became president in 2014, Egypt’s power supply was extremely unstable, and the power shortage once reached 6,000 megawatts, accounting for about a quarter of Egypt’s total installed capacity that year. Sisi has repeatedly emphasized that electricity supply is related to national security. During his first term, he invested heavily in the electricity field. By 2018, Egypt not only achieved self-sufficiency in electricity, but also had 25% of its electricity surplus available for export.
The construction of Egypt’s new administrative capital is another major project after Sisi came to power. The new administrative capital is planned to cover an area of 700 square kilometers and will be the seat of Egypt’s main government departments and financial institutions. The project plans to absorb Egypt’s 5 million to 10 million people, provide employment and public services, and fundamentally solve the problems of excessive population density and high unemployment in Cairo, the capital of Egypt.
Face the challenge
After Sisi won a new term, he faced many challenges.
Dong Bing believes that the primary challenge facing Sisi currently is economic difficulties. Egypt’s economy already has structural shortcomings and a serious lack of endogenous power. Since 2022, affected by factors such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and U.S. interest rate hikes, Egypt’s economy has accelerated its deterioration, with heavy debt repayment pressure and severe currency depreciation. After the Russia-Ukraine conflict, capital outflows caused rapid depletion of Egypt’s foreign exchange and the Egyptian pound depreciated by more than 50%. In addition, Egypt’s domestic inflation rate has been hovering around 40% for several consecutive months, and commodity prices remain high. Boosting the economy and improving people’s livelihood have become the biggest challenges for Sisi’s new term.
In addition, Sisi also needs to deal with security risks. In recent years, the security situation in Egypt’s surrounding areas has been severe, especially in October 2023, when the war in Gaza, northern Egypt, resumed, which caused a significant increase in Egypt’s security pressure. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has caused Egypt to suffer frequent disasters. So far, armed drones and missiles have accidentally entered Egyptian territory on many occasions, causing casualties.
Violent terrorist forces may also take advantage of the chaos to re-emerge. Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and other places were originally areas where violent terrorists were rampant. Under the heavy counter-terrorism measures of the Sisi government, violent terrorists have been severely weakened in recent years and have gone dormant. If chaos continues in the surrounding areas in the future, violent terrorist forces may take advantage of the situation and resurgence. If people’s livelihood conditions further deteriorate, the risks threatening the stability of the regime will also increase.
In this regard, Sisi is also working hard to break the situation. Reversing the domestic economic decline will undoubtedly be its top priority. After the Sisi government came to power, it has repeatedly sought help from international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to obtain bailout funds. The most recent time was in October 2022, when the IMF approved a US$3 billion loan to Egypt, but required Egypt’s implementation of neoliberal economic reforms as a condition for lending, requiring Egypt to adopt flexible exchange rates, cut subsidies, and promote privatization. On the one hand, these reforms involve the core interests of the Egyptian military and other departments; on the other hand, they will have a greater impact on people’s livelihood and face huge implementation resistance. Since March 2023, the IMF has suspended loan disbursements due to Egypt’s failure to fulfill its reform commitments. How Sisi can protect people’s livelihood and maintain stability while eliminating long-standing economic shortcomings will be a big test.
According to outside analysts, Sisi will also seek other international assistance. Egypt is a major country in the Middle East and Africa. It guards the strategic importance of the Suez Canal. The international community considers it “too big to fail” and has provided it with long-term assistance. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries provided huge aid to Sisi when he first came to power. After the outbreak of this round of Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Egypt’s significance to regional stability has once again become prominent, and the outside world may be more positive in providing aid to Egypt.
On the international stage, Sisi will continue to carry forward his diplomatic advantages. Although Egypt is currently plagued by domestic development problems, its role and geostrategic value as a major country in the Middle East and Africa have not changed, and it is still generally valued by the international community. Sisi is well aware of this, has always been proactive in diplomacy, and has developed good cooperative relations with all parties. Dong Bing believes that Sisi will continue his balanced, diverse and pragmatic foreign policy in the future and strive to play an important role in international hotspot issues such as Palestine.
Dong Bing said that Sisi has long-term friendship with China, agrees with China’s governance philosophy, and has long-term and firm support for China on major issues related to Xinjiang and Tibet. During his administration, China-Egypt strategic mutual trust and cooperation have been consolidated and deepened. As both “emerging countries”, China and Egypt share many common interests and face many common challenges. The good relations between China and Egypt have expanded the space for cooperation between the two countries on a series of issues such as social governance, poverty eradication, and response to climate change.
China and Egypt are good friends who share the same goals and trust each other, and are also good partners who work together for development and common prosperity. In recent years, China-Egypt relations have developed vigorously, with fruitful results in practical cooperation in various fields, and the friendship between the two peoples has continued to deepen. After Sisi was re-elected, China stated that China has always viewed the development of China-Egypt relations from a strategic and long-term perspective, and is willing to continue working with Egypt to firmly support each other, deepen and expand cooperation in jointly building the “Belt and Road”, and promote China-Egypt comprehensive strategy The partnership continues to reach new heights.
was born in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, in 1954. He graduated from the Egyptian Military Academy in 1977 and entered the Army. He successively served as commander of the Northern Military Region and director of the Military Reconnaissance Bureau. He entered the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in 2011, served as Minister of Defense in 2012, and was elected President in 2014 and has been re-elected to this day.