It would be foolish to rule out the possibility of another popular uprising even though Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has solidified his control over all state institutions.
The 18-day national uprising that resulted in the overthrow of 30-year-old dictator Hosni Mubarak on January 25 marks the 12-year anniversary of Egypt’s contribution to the Arab Spring.
Egypt held several free and fair elections and referendums after Mubarak was forcibly removed from office on February 11, 2011, and Mohamed Morsi was elected as the country’s first-ever civilian leader.
The national armed forces, who control Egypt’s “deep state,” were never content to let Morsi or any other civilian hold actual power. To plan a coup d’état against Morsi in July 2013, the military worked with remnants of the Mubarak regime, anti-democratic liberals, media outlets, and police.
During his year as Morsi’s defense minister, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi oversaw both the coup and the country’s shift to unrestrained authoritarianism.
Sisi was duped into becoming president in a fraudulent election in 2014, after which he oversaw unprecedented violations of human rights, eliminated all of the political opposition in Egypt, and established the legal framework for autocratic rule.
Sisi promised Egyptians economic prosperity both during his run for president and in the early years of his administration. By all accounts, he has fallen short of expectations. Egypt is currently experiencing an unprecedented economic crisis, which could ultimately spell the end for Sisi.
Gulf autocracies who were wary of an Arab-regional democratic turn provided the majority of the funding for the coup. Sisi received tens of billions of dollars in grants from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 2013 and 2014. In addition to these gifts, the Egyptian government also received sizable loans from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, China, the Arab Monetary Fund, and the African Development Bank.
However, the regime decided to spend billions on vanity projects that fueled Egypt’s military’s economy instead, including roads, a monorail, presidential palaces, and opulent hotels, rather than investing the money in projects that would improve education, healthcare, affordable housing, or revenue-generating opportunities. Sisi also spent $500 million on a brand-new jumbo jet for the president last year.
2016 saw the start of a $50 billion administrative capital city’s construction. The new capital, which includes the tallest skyscraper in Africa and a mega-mosque, has lined the pockets of military-owned companies and is being designed primarily to serve wealthy Egyptian elites.
Importantly, the new capital is believed to be protected from a potential future uprising by its military and security complexes and remote location (it is located about 45 kilometers from Cairo).
The already precarious economic situation in Egypt has been made worse by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and the 2022 Russia-Ukraine war. A year and a half after Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine and close to three years after the pandemic began, the Egyptian pound further declined this month, falling to about 29 pounds per dollar. In the upcoming months, more devaluations are anticipated.
The fact that import prices have risen dramatically as a result of the pound’s decline has helped drive inflation through the roof. Inflation reached nearly 22% last month. Average Egyptians, who also suffered from severe subsidy reductions, are now struggling to make ends meet.