Egypt’s Pre-Election Pulse

In the lead-up to Egypt’s presidential election next week, Max Rodenbeck examines the findings of a recent Pew survey, which puts putative winner Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi’s favorability at 54 percent and shows “declining faith in democracy”:

In the heady days of 2011, 54% favoured “democracy, even with some risk of political instability”, over stable government without full democracy. Those proportions have now reversed, a factor that has clearly played to Mr Sisi’s electoral advantage.Egypt

But Egypt’s new leader should take little comfort from other trends. Trust in national institutions, including the army, the media, religious leaders and the courts has slumped to an all-time low; in the case of the military from 88% approval in 2011 to just 56% now. This is an indication that the post-coup-regime’s use of harsh policing and harsher justice has carried a heavy cost in public support. Significantly, some 63% or respondents said the government now “does not respect” personal freedoms, up from 44% under Mr Morsi.

Perhaps most ominously, a solid 72% of respondents say they are dissatisfied with the country’s general direction. That is a higher proportion than in 2010, the year before Egyptians rose up and overthrew Hosni Mubarak, their dictator for three decades.

Richard Wike focuses on what Pew found out about the Muslim Brotherhood:

Back in 2011, just after the revolution, three-quarters of Egyptians had a favorable opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even in the spring of 2013 a solid majority (63 percent) still expressed a positive view. In the new survey, however, just 38 percent give the Brotherhood a positive rating. Still, the fact that roughly four in 10 Egyptians continue to have a favorable opinion of the Islamist organization, which the Egyptian state has declared a terrorist group, means that Sisi will come to office facing significant opposition to his rule.

In some ways, the Brotherhood’s resilience shouldn’t be a surprise: The organization has been around for nearly nine decades and has survived varying levels of repression over time, adapting and transforming itself as the political context changes. Egypt remains a country where many Islamist positions enjoy a great deal of acceptance, providing groups like the Brotherhood an ongoing base of support.

Meanwhile, Eric Trager interviews Sisi’s quixotic challenger Hamdeen Sabahi:

Sabahi, who finished a strong third in the 13-candidate 2012 presidential election, knows that the odds are severely stacked against him. “I think the political atmosphere says that there is a state candidate,” he said, referring to Sisi, during an interview at his Giza-based office in early April. “I think this atmosphere does not give an equal competitive opportunity in this election.” … Yet despite the hopelessness of his relatively small campaign, Sabahi is making one important contribution to Egypt’s political landscape. In an otherwise repressive political environment, he is working to preserve Egyptians’ ability to challenge Sisi’s emerging regime. …

Yet despite the hopelessness of his relatively small campaign, Sabahi is making one important contribution to Egypt’s political landscape. In an otherwise repressive political environment, he is working to preserve Egyptians’ ability to challenge Sisi’s emerging regime. “I am not an idealist who stays at home waiting for this state to be neutral,” he told me. “For this reason, I believe in running for this presidential election so that democracy becomes a right.”