Abdul Fattah al-Sisi: who is Egypt's new president?

May 29, 2014

Everything you need to know about the former military chief turned politician Abdul Fattah al-Sisi


Former Egyptian army chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has won an overwhelming victory in a presidential election many commentators described as a one-horse race.

With most ballots counted, Sisi appears to have won at least 96 per cent of the vote, the BBC reports.

Many groups boycotted the vote, which recorded a total turnout of just over 45 per cent despite being extended by a dat to allow the "greatest number possible" to vote, state media reported.

According to the BBC, the low voter turnout "damages Sisi's authority before he takes office".

Military commander turned politician
Family and friends say that as boy, Sisi was a "studious" young man. "He didn't hang out, he just went to school, the gym and the mosque," Sisi's cousin, Fathi, told The Sunday Times. Since he was a young man he was always "quiet, humble and ruthless", the paper reports.

Sisi rose through the military ranks swiftly. He was sent to study warfare in Britain and at the US Army War College in Pennsylvania – a privilege reserved for those "earmarked for greater things" in the army, according to Robert Springborg, an expert on the Egyptian military. When he returned he became defence attaché to Riyadh, and three years ago he was put in charge of military intelligence.

Anti-democratic leanings
Sisi was a relative unknown until he was "propelled into the limelight" when Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, made him head of the armed forces in 2012. One year later Sisi deposed his former patron and had his political supporters arrested.

Many saw Morsi's decision to appoint Sisi head of the military as an attempt to regain control over the army – a gamble which failed to pay off.

The Sunday Times notes that even before Sisi deposed Morsi, he had shown anti-democratic leanings. While he was in US military college, he wrote a thesis in which he warned that "democracy, as a secular entity, is unlikely to be favourably received by the vast majority of Middle Easterners".

How he's seen in Egypt
Sisi remains a divisive figure, says Time magazine: "To his supporters, he is the 'Lion of Egypt,' a patriot who answered the call of millions by removing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power. But to others, he is a tyrant who overthrew Egypt's first freely elected leader in a military coup".

The New York Times's David Kirkpatrick describes him as "Egypt's New Strongman". Sisi has shown that he "sees himself as a morally superior father figure responsible for directing and correcting the nation, with a firm hand if needed", Kirkpatrick says.

Writing in the Guardian, Magdi Abdelhadi says that in spite of the way in which he came to power, Sisi could yet turn out to be the leader Egypt needs: "Provided he listens, accepts public criticism and learns from past mistakes, Sisi could bring the stability Egypt needs. If he doesn't, there could be more trouble ahead, perhaps far worse than anything we have seen since the overthrow of Mubarak in 2011".

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