By Middle East Affairs
On Saturday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will be sworn in for a second four-year term, this after months of arrests ordered on Egyptian’s brave enough to speak against the government.
The administration fears social dissent and has ordered the arrests of thousands of activists, lawyers, journalists, and others who expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling government.
The heavy surge of arrests began in March after Sisi was predicted to win the election with a 97% vote. Since then arrests have been made on all those responsible for the January 2011 popular uprising that saw president Hosni Mubarak lost his position.
More notably have been the arrests of blogger and journalist Wael Abbas and Shadi Ghazali Harb, one of the youth leaders during the 2011 revolution.
Among the arrested is Hazim Abdelazim, who headed the youth committee of El-Sisi’s successful presidential bid in 2014, and has since called it his “biggest mistake.”
Karim Bitar, a researcher at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs said, “The arrests are in line with the repressive policies of recent years, which aim to subdue all potential checks on power.”
In May, the public prosecutor’s office released a statement that sought to warn the media that spreading any dissent information dissent would be seen as putting the country’s “safety and security” in jeopardy.
Mostafa Kamel el-Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University said of the recent arrests “nothing has changed in the security-focused policies of the regime in Egypt.”
He said the president’s actions show, “There is still worry of a repeat of what happened in January 2011.”
Political science analysts also say that a struggling economy hardship is also putting extra pressure on the administration.
In order, to keep up with the $12-billion (€10.3 billion) loan deal with the International Monetary Fund, Sisi’s government has introduced a value-added tax, cut fuel subsidies, and risen electricity prices. This has been problematic for many Egyptians as their salaries have not risen to match the new price surges.
The administration need only to look to the past to have its fears ignited, citizens who made their concerns vocal against the regime in 2011 are an even greater cause of concern for Sisi.
Egyptians have been negatively impacted by the loss of value in currency since 2016 and rising levels of inflation which reached its highest point last July, at 33 %.
More price rises are expected for the summer as Sisi has ordered electricity prices to go up and eliminated fuel subsidies. State-owned media favoring Sisi has said that the reason for these new changes was the 104 billion Egypian pound petroleum subsity bill and rising oil prices that are averaging 75$ per barrel.
At the same time, human rights groups have drawn publicity to the unjust arrests, asking for Egyptian authories to release the arrested.
One of the largest global human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch has called Egypt, “state of oppression” as reports of the arrested grow weekly.
Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief has also spoken out against the recent rise of arrests associated with political dissent.
Speaking on her behalf, her spokesperson Maja Kocijancic said, “Sustainable stability and security can only go hand in hand with the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The increasing number of arrests of human rights defenders, political activists, and bloggers in the latest weeks in Egypt is, therefore, a worrying development.”
Ahmed Abu Zeid, the Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman shot back and said that E.U’s track record on human rights also warrants criticism.
He also made a reference to the E.U’s “ immense difficulty and degrading treatment suffered by many of the immigrants and refugees, as well as the violations committed by law enforcement authorities”.
Zeid’s statement read, “That is in addition to the growing effect of the rise of extremist, right-wing parties and movements, with the ensuing manifestations of racism, discrimination, violence and hate speech.”
What drew even further criticism on Egypt’s was sentencing a prominent journalist and expert on Jihadist movements in the Sinai Peninsular, Ismail Alexandrani to 10 years in prison.
There has been no court issue of the reasoning behind his long sentence. Alexandrani’s lawyer said that he was accused of publishing military secrets and belonging to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
Bitar, a Paris based researcher said that Egypt’s policy direction is an effect of the West’s policies.
He said, “The Western preference for Arab authoritarianism provides rulers in the Middle East blank cheques that make them feel they have no limits in regards to oppression.”