Egypt looks to army again for salvation

Cairo, April 20: Weary of a political turmoil that never seems to end, Egyptians are now again awaiting with anticipation the election of a new president next month following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the first democratically elected president of the country, in July last year.

And yet again, the north African nation is looking at the army to restore peace and stability following what people called the dismal performance of the Morsi government.

“We have had enough. What we need now is a new leader, a strong leader,” Asma, a 34-year-old Cairo-based career professional, told this visiting IANS correspondent while talking of the bitterness left in the people’s mouth by the short reign of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

“When people realised that things have reached this much,” she said while wrapping her hands around her neck, “they decided to bring a change in the country’s leadership.”

“What Egypt needs as a strong nation is a strong leader. What Egypt needs is (Field Marshal Abdel Fatteh Saeed Hussein Khalili El-) Sisi.”

Asma is not alone to reveal such sentiments. Like her, millions of Egyptians are seeking yet another change in the country’s leadership after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and then Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

As the country prepares to elect a new president next month, a Sisi wave seems to be sweeping across the people’s mindset.

The former interim defence minister and army chief seems to be maintaining a healthy lead over other candidates for the election scheduled for the last week of May if the mood of the people on the streets is anything to go by.

This given the fact that Morsi had come to power on the back of the January 2011 people’s uprising that saw the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the army strongman who ruled the north African nation for over 29 years.

“You see, Egyptians like their army very much,” Osama Ibrahim, a professor at Fayoum University, told IANS.

“The army is seen as the only force that can fight corruption in this country,” he added.

Following Mubarak’s ouster after the popular January 2011 uprising in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, many political forces appeared in the country’s political horizon, including the Muslim Brotherhood.

“People thought that the Muslim Brotherhood could lead the country. We were very enthusiastic,” the Fayoum University professor explained.

The election was held, according to him, in a very democratic process with many people nominating themselves for the country’s top post. Eventually, Morsi pipped Ahmed Shafik, a former prime minister under Mubarak and a fighter pilot, to the post.

While Morsi got 13.5 million votes in the second and final phase of the elections, Shafik secured 13.2 million votes.

But people were not prepared for the state of affairs they would be witness to under Morsi’s presidency.

“Morsi did not rule the country , it was the Muslim Brotherhood leadership that took all the decisions,” said Ibrahim.

What alienated Morsi further from the people was his decision to give more powers to the president in the country’s new constitution.

“Although they are saying that 95 percent of the voters voted for a new constitution, you should note that only 38 percent of the country’s population cast their votes (to ratify the new constitution),” said Tawfik, a 28-year-old Cairo-based professional.

One can take an Egyptian into confidence, according to Asma, by talking about religion.

“And that was precisely what Morsi exploited. He kept on talking about religion while doing very little as a prime minister. Nothing was done on the ground for restoring peace and security. Morsi left all major decisions to be taken by the Muslim Brotherhood leadership,” she said.

In Luxor, a tourist town in south central Egypt that is home to a large number of the country’s Coptic Christian minority, Sam, a tourist guide, concurred.

“We, the Muslims, and the Coptics have been living here for ages now helping each other. If a Coptic colleague fails to meet a target, I cover for him. Similarly, if I fail somewhere, a Coptic colleague will cover for me. So, why make such divisions ?” he asked.

“The people were disillusioned. I myself was very confused. And soon the army took over again,” Ibrahim said while talking of the time in July last year when then interim defence minister Sisi led a coup to oust Morsi following mass protests.

“Sisi came as a saviour for the Egyptian people. He saved us from the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Asma. “At this point we do not care whether the new president comes from the army or otherwise.”

Ahmed, a taxi driver who took this IANS correspondent from his hotel in Luxor to the local souk, reflected similar sentiments.

“We all want Sisi. He is a good man,” he said while lamenting the hit the town’s tourism-based economy had taken during Morsi’s presidency.

But then again, was not Mubarak also from the army? Was he too not ousted amid mass protests?

“Come on,” said Ahmed. “Mubarak was definitely better than Morsi.”

(Aroonim Bhuyan can be reached at