June 10, 2014



And how did this Sisi government so warmly congratulated by Western officials come into existence? Through terror. Sisi won 96.91 per cent of the vote in last week's presidential elections. If that sounds suspicious - remember all the Western mocking that would greet news that Saddam Hussein had won 97 per cent of the vote in Iraq? - that's because it is. Sisi won by effectively banning any serious force from standing against him. First the National Democratic Party - the party of Hosni Mubarak, the tyrannical president ousted by an uprising in 2011 - was banned from 'running in any presidential, parliamentary or council elections'. Then the Muslim Brotherhood was banned 'from taking part in presidential and legislative elections'. The Brotherhood had already been branded a terrorist organisation by the Sisi regime and was banned from gathering in public. With big hitters like Mubarak and MB forced aside, the vast majority of the other candidates for the presidency took the repressive hint and withdrew. In the end there were only two candidates: Sisi and a leftist named Hamdeen Sabahi. Sabahi actually came third, if you count spoiled ballots as a voting bloc. Most Egyptians, in particular MB-supporting Islamists, boycotted the elections, and on a turnout of 46 per cent, Sisi won nearly every vote.

In the months preceding the elections, Sisi had created a situation in which criticism of his regime, never mind organised electoral opposition to it, became a criminal offence. His opponents ran the risk of arrest, imprisonment and even death merely for expressing their political views. Last August, following Sisi's military coup against Morsi, Islamists who had voted for Morsi took to the streets to demand his reinstatement. They were massacred in their hundreds. It is estimated that at least 1,000 were killed, 'probably more than the number killed in Beijing's Tiananmen Square', says one report. In the most shocking incident, soldiers surrounded a pro-Morsi camp and 'fired into it for several hours'. Strangely, this didn't cause much consternation among leftists in the West, who save their outrage for far milder instances of police meddling in square-based protest camps in the US and Europe. In the 10 months since the August massacres, hundreds more pro-Morsi protesters have been killed by the police and army.

Those lucky enough not to be killed have found themselves in jail. Currently 16,000 anti-Sisi dissidents are in prison. Many are being sentenced to death in mass trials. In March, a court in southern Egypt took just one hour to sentence to death 529 Morsi supporters for the crime of taking part in violent protests. In April, another court sentenced to death 683 pro-Morsi activists, in what one Egyptian activist called 'the largest batch of simultaneous death sentences in the world in living memory'. Some of these pro-Morsi men have since had their sentences commuted to 25 years in jail; the rest face being hanged. In November last year, a court sentenced 21 women, seven of them under the age of 18, to 11 years in jail for taking part in a pro-Morsi protest. Their punishment was eventually reduced to one-year suspended prison sentences. They didn't become cause celebres here in the West, probably because they wear veils and don't sing punkish songs about pussies and Putin.

It isn't only supporters of Morsi who have found themselves silenced or suppressed by Sisi. So have journalists and even comedians who have dared to criticise him. Journalists have been imprisoned for making comments 'supportive of Morsi'. A political scientist was charged with 'insulting the judiciary' over a tweet he wrote. A newscaster was dismissed for using the c-word - coup - to describe what Sisi did to Morsi. Bassem Youssef, a TV political satirist described as Egypt's Jon Stewart, has been forced off air for mocking Sisi. Under Sisi, Egypt has risen to become the world's 'ninth most prolific jailer of journalists'.

These are the foundations on which Sisi's victory in the presidential elections were built. He assumed the presidency through banning his opponents, killing or imprisoning his most active critics, dismissing journalists who criticise him, and creating a political climate in which saying anything against his regime is a genuinely dangerous thing to do.

Posted by at June 10, 2014 3:21 PM

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