The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

In Translation: Letter to Sisi

The talented team at the professional translation service Industry Arabic brings you this installment in our regular In Translation series.

Letter to Sisi: Why do they object to your candidacy?

Moataz Bellah Abdel-Fattah, al-Watan, March 28, 2014

A statesman is like someone driving a very large vehicle with many mirrors and gauges; he has to pay attention to all of them at once and to pick up on warning signs in time. All of this he must handle with the requisite wisdom.

Presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi began his electoral campaign Wednesday and many – I believe the majority – celebrated his announcement of candidacy. However, it is a poor political and strategic calculation on the part of candidate Sisi and his team to not pay attention to those rejecting his candidacy, some of whom have said outright: “He’s entered the trap” and “He’ll drink from the same cup.”

The efficiency of Sisi’s campaign will come from its ability to deal with the objections raised against him by his opponents. He and his campaign must answer these questions and prove the soundness of his position.

For example, when I asked what the main reasons advanced by some of those rejecting Sisi’s candidacy are, I got the following responses:

1. He’s a billionaire who has not and will not feel the pain of the vast majority of the people suffering every day. This is evidenced by his statement that people should “tighten their belt and go to work”, which indicates a mindset far from that of the people and their reality.

 2. All of his experience is with the military. He hasn’t worked in any other fields -- political, social, or economic. This is no time for experiments and learning on the job in a country whose economy is on its last legs and whose infrastructure is collapsing.

3. He’s not an independent decision-maker. Just as Morsi was a deputy of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi will represent and take orders from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Thus SCAF will be the true ruler, and all state institutions will exist merely for appearance’s sake and as a cover for oppressive military rule.

4. He’s connected to the interests of Mubarak’s corrupt regime and the National Democratic Party (NDP). He appointed [Prime Minister Ibrahim] Mehleb, a member of the NDP’s Policy Committee and assistant to Gamal Mubarak, to be Egypt’s prime minister—after two revolutions. This is the biggest catastrophe of all, and shows the orientations and intentions of Sisi as well of those close to him once he takes power.

5. It’s not possible to guarantee fair and impartial elections, because SCAF supports him and is nominating him out of a true eagerness for power, and at the same time it is the only one protecting the ballot boxes at night after the observers and judges leave.

6. The absence of equal opportunity and fair competition. One candidate has all the state’s bodies and intelligence agencies on his side. The state media is fully under their service, polishing his image and supporting him hypocritically, broadcasting lies about his competitors, spreading delusions, and exaggerating his popularity such that it surpasses that of the prophets and messengers.

7. His entire history is one of assisting Mubarak and keeping quiet about corruption. By virtue of his position as a director of Mubarak’s intelligence services* and as direct assistant to Mubarak, he witnessed, participated in, or supported much of Mubarak's own corruption and collaborated with him. Then under Tantawi he was directly responsible for the virginity tests scandal and for killing and shooting at the eyes of protestors in Mohamed Mahmoud and other confrontations. He was a member of SCAF when it handed the country over to the Muslim Brotherhood, and he didn’t refuse or resign. Instead, Morsi appointed him minister of defense in appreciation of his efforts to crush the January revolution and the revolutionaries, which was in their mutual interest. All this with a direct recommendation from Tantawi, leader of the counter-revolution!

8. He is not an independent decision maker when it comes to national issues. Most of the training, study, and intelligence experience he received before being appointed a director of intelligence was in the United States and England.

9. More than half the population hates him and regards him as an enemy. More than six million elected Morsi, and four million elected Aboul Fotouh. Most revolutionaries, five million of whom voted for Hamdeen Sabahi, view him as an enemy of the revolution and a continuation of the comic theatre of military rule over 22 million. A state can’t be built cooperatively with a public who knows that their ruler will be chosen by deception, forgery, and force.

10. Continued rule of civil institutions by military men. Most of the state’s problems come down to the fact that the head of the largest institutions and authorities in Egypt are generals who don’t know and are not proficient or qualified in the field to which they are appointed. Thus, corruption and cronyism continue and the person who is trusted and loyal to the regime is preferred over the person with experience. This is the basis of corruption in Egypt.

11. He won’t empower his opposition and dreams of democracy and a ‘state of institutions’ will be lost, and with them all the goals of the revolution. From now on, anyone who joins a protest to demand anything will be called a terrorist and arrested or sentenced to death. The accusations are ready-made, the ruling will be issued in days, and the trials will be in military courts – even if you just happened to be walking near a demonstration. Under him, all opposition will be classified as ‘traitors’ and ‘agents’ who want to wipe out and destroy the army. There will be no one to protect the people from his tyranny, since the army will be completely with him in his tyranny and injustice.

12. All of this will have a very dangerous effect on the army’s attention to its main duty, which is protecting the country from foreign threats. The bloodshed will start to build a wall and lead to enmity and reprisals between the army and the people. This will completely ruin the idea of electing Sisi for the sake of stability, because having the military in power is a great danger to Egypt and its stability.

13. Sisi is one of the main sources of the rigid divisions in Egypt and it is self-deceptive to think that he could be a source of unity or that he will be able to lead everyone all together in a nation-building project. A large percentage of Egyptians (especially the youth segment set on change) thinks that he won’t fulfill their aspirations and in fact see him as a symbol of something they want to get rid of (military rule) in order to get on with building a modern civil state. What is certain is that he will win the elections in light of a wide boycott by this segment and by every party opposed to the road map, which is no small percentage of the people. 14. The many wrongs that have occurred and which many people believe he bears responsibility for. True, the media doesn’t show this picture and instead shows us something false, but the content of this picture has settled in the consciousness of a large number of people, including the relatives, neighbors, and friends of innocent individuals who have been killed and wounded. Same with the detainees, etc.

Here the comments from Facebook friends end. These comments are repeated by them in their private gatherings. I know that many are imprecise and can be refuted, but my goal in this article is not to answer on behalf of the presidential candidate. Rather it is to let him and his campaign know that Egypt is like a worn out rubber raft, suffering from age and exposure, making anyone in it a knife or sharp object capable of puncturing a hole. The message has been received. It’s up to you to act.
And may God protect us.

* Sisi was Director of Military Intelligence in the last years of the Mubarak regime and until August 2012, when President Mohammed Morsi named him Minister of Defense.