- Despite economic hardship, some Egyptians are asking President Sisi to stand for reelection
- His popularity had dipped due to soaring consumer prices
- However thousands have already signed up to the "To Build It" campaign
- Still, opposition to his candidature remains fierce among others
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has guided his nation into deep financial crisis, overseen the unpopular handover of two Red Sea islands and imprisoned thousands without trial.
The military general initially came to power in a coup overthrowing democratically elected Mohamed Morsi, with his presidency later confirmed in a landslide 2014 vote. Since then, dramatic rises in food and fuel costs, along with his regime's severe human rights abuses, have seen public discontent rise.
Despite all of this, some Egyptians just cannot get enough of their president.
A campaign to push Sisi to stand for reelection in the anticipated 2018 presidential elections has taken off online.
“Alashan Tbneeha” (To Build It) is encouraging Egyptians to sign a form asking for his nomination for a second term.
Form for the campaign to ask that the President of the Republic Abdel Fattah Al Sisi be nominated for another term. In order to purge it [Egypt] from terrorism. In order to maintain our leadership. In order to complete our project. In order to teach our children. In order to eliminate corruption.
The form is pictured, with space to fill in your name, national number, governorate and neighborhood, and to sign.
The Facebook page, which is where the project began, has shared images of individuals all over the country filling in the document. Public figures, including university heads and local mayors have also expressed public support.
Volunteers have been recruited from across Egypt to spread the forms among its estimated 96 million population.
The campaign held its first press conference three weeks ago, in which representatives claimed to have no political affiliation.
“We are going to collect signatures from all around the state, aiming to convince President Sisi that there is a huge number of Egyptians wanting him to run again,” Kareem Salim, one of the the founders of “To Build It”, said.
The Egyptian president has previously suggested that “he will only run if the Egyptian people want him as president again”, according to Egypt Independent.
In August last year he indicated: “If the will of the Egyptian people requires me to run for another term, I will so do”, in comments that were ridiculed by many Egyptians.
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Why does Sisi still have popular support?
The campaign’s first statement praised “President Sisi’s loyalty and his keenness regarding fixing the state’s real problems, including the economic situation of the country”.
“He risked everything and stood strong while taking several historical, fateful decisions, trusting that Egyptians will understand the reasons behind them,” it added, according to Egypt Today.
After the Egyptian pound was floated in November last year, its value almost halved. Food prices skyrocketed by 43.6 percent in just one year and inflation hit a 30-year high in April at 31.5 percent, according to Middle East Eye.
These are partly the result of measures, including tax hikes and price rises, taken to guarantee a $12 billion IMF loan.
Despite the IMF stipulating a reduction in public spending, however, expensive projects such as a $45 billion new administrative capital, and a new space agency, have also been launched.
The “To Build It” leadership also commended Sisi’s efforts on social justice and combating corruption.
In July last year, Egypt’s own official statistics agency indicated that 27.8 percent of the population were currently living in poverty. In 2014, a year after Sisi took power, the number was 26 percent.
Rural areas, Egypt Independent reported, had “witnessed increased levels of inequality and poverty” over the previous two years.
It is not just the “To Build It” campaign that is revealing the resilience of public enthusiasm for President Sisi. The hashtag “our vote for Sisi” has also been trending for several days, with over 200,000 tweets by Monday.
In spite of the economic hardships facing Egyptians under Sisi, it is perhaps his ability to promote himself as the protector of security and stability that appeals to many.
Some of his opponents online even suggested that the popular support was an indicator that Egyptians were not ready for democracy, instead welcoming an undisputed, strong leader.
"To Build It" slammed by opponents
Still, others online have slammed the campaign, saying that in the face of growing prices it will be insufficient to boost Sisi’s popular support.
Rival hashtags “we don’t want you” and “go, so we can protect it” also gained some momentum on social media.
#مش_عايزينك— Dr. Hazim Abdelazim (@Hazem__Azim) October 14, 2017
عشان فقرت مصر
عشان صغرت مصر
عشان فرطت في ارض مصر
عشان خدعت شعب مصر
عشان تهاونت في نيل مصر
عشان سجنت شباب مصر
#We_don’t_want_you because you have impoverished Egypt. Because you have made Egypt lesser. Because you have abandoned Egyptian lands. Because you have cheated the Egyptian people. Because you have neglected Egypt's accomplishments. Because you have imposed Egypt's young people.
Egyptian politician and presidential candidate in 2012, Ayman Nour wrote: “#Go_so_we_can_build_it #Go_do_we_can_protect_it We protect it from you and your persistence in undermining relationships between the groups of the homeland, and your distortion of all its symbols and icons.
In fact, while a poll by pro-regime Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research found that Sisi’s approval ratings have dropped from 91 to 82 percent, others suggest a more dramatic decrease.
Presidential elections are to be held no later than May 2018.
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