Challenges mount for Egypt’s leader ahead of new term


Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi faces a number of daunting challenges following his re-election as president this week.

Having carried out a crackdown against his political rivals and critics in the press, he has portrayed himself as the one man capable of keeping his country safe from “forces of evil” seeking its destabilization.

But with free speech curbed, his opposition crushed and another four-year term secured, he must now show that he is capable of improving the lives of ordinary Egyptians. Arab News looks at some of his main challenges:
The war in Sinai

After taking power in 2013, outlawing the Muslim Brotherhood and arresting thousands of its members, El-Sisi has faced a growing insurgency from radical militant groups. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Sinai peninsula, a vast area of desert, mountains and isolated towns and cities. Insurgents linked to Daesh have carried out frequent attacks in Sinai, with one of the most notorious incidents occurring last November when gunmen stormed a Sufi mosque and killed more than 300 people.

The government launched a major military offensive in the peninsula in February and claims to have made significant progress with the operation, but the radical groups are unlikely to go away anytime soon.

The economy
In December the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved the third installment of a $12 billion, three-year loan for Egypt, having praised Cairo for carrying out “bold” economic reforms including adopting a value-added tax and cutting energy subsidies. The IMF also said the country’s economy is expected to grow, with inflation due to fall to 13 percent by the end of 2018. But millions of Egyptians remain mired in poverty and lack access to clean drinking water and health care, while the country’s tourism industry has suffered at the hands of militant attacks.

Foreign relations
Egypt enjoys good relations with leading world powers including the US and Saudi Arabia. France and Russia have both signed major arms deals with Cairo since El-Sisi took power. However, the government’s crackdown on civil society activists, political opponents and the media has been strongly condemned by the UN. Earlier this week a British parliamentary panel said that the prison conditions faced by El-Sisi’s predecessor as president, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Mursi, “could lead to his premature death.” They said that he is being kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, with just one hour for him to exercise alone.

Al-Nahda dam
Egypt remains deeply concerned about a massive dam Ethiopia is building on the Nile, fearing the project will jeopardize its main source of water. El-Sisi has sought to calm tensions and said that he does not wish to go to war over the issue, but his supporters are watching developments carefully. They see the dam not just as a threat to their water supply, but to their national pride.

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