The referendum on the long-debated Egyptian draft constitution took place on January 14-15, and army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, the general who ousted Mohamed Morsi after mass protests last July, declared that he will consider a strong yes vote in the constitutional referendum as a mandate to run for office.
All the evidence seemed to point to such an outcome, as the entire country seemed to be adorned with campaign posters supporting the yes vote. Funded by aid from rich Gulf States, teams have been sent to clean all the post-revolutionary signs in the capital in order to paint the picture of progress and stability, of things finally going on the right track. Over the country, people have shown their support through posters and banners, all encouraging the positive vote for the draft constitution.
However, taking into consideration that some were arrested for posting messages against the vote and that even foreign media teams hired to portray the progress of Egypt towards stability were arrested, it is difficult to say where the true reasons for the support lay. The fact that many supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was recently declared a terrorist organisation, have been arrested or killed, does not help prove the legitimacy of the regime.
The inaccuracy and lack of reliable polls makes it difficult to estimate the outcome of a presidential election. A Zogby poll showed that Sisi and Morsi had almost even support, despite the fact that 71 percent of people supported the army. The intentional ambiguity surrounding Sisi’s candidature has also made it difficult for others to plan a campaign and not many are willing to run against him at this moment in time.
He is expected to win from the first round, and many consider him the only person able to unite Egyptians through a difficult period. Surely, censorship and denial of the freedom of speech is not a brilliant start, and it does raise red flags on what a military regime could entail. As the tension and imminent conflict in the area is not likely to be extinguished anytime soon, a firm hand is necessary to maintain peace.
In fact, after the turmoil and instability following Mubarak’s overthrowing, a strong leader might be exactly what Egypt needs in its current political and economic context, and Sisi has the public support for overthrowing Morsi. As he says himself:“ If I run for the presidency it must be by the request of the people and with a mandate from my army. When Egyptians say something, we obey and I will never turn my back on Egypt.”
The request or support of the people cannot accurately be measured in this situation, but the effects of army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s regime will be seen on Egypt’s route towards stability.