(Il Cairo) Egypt’s stability is a guarantee of stability for the whole world. That’s why the presidential elections scheduled for March 26-28 are of crucial importance. Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of the Orthodox Copts, sees in the vote a path of prosperity and peace for the Country that is currently experiencing great tension Two days before the presidential elections a new terror attack shattered the population. A bomb placed under a car exploded in Alexandria as the chief’s security convoy passed by. Law enforcement authorities have tightened controls and the military patrol the streets.
Expected results. The posters of President Abd Fattah al-Sisi, in office since June 8 2014, stand out along the busy streets of Cairo. He is running for a third 4-year term and has virtually no contender. After the withdrawal of the three candidates and the arrest (or sentencing) of two army officers who intended to run for elections, al-Sisi’s only challenger is Moussa Mostafa, who is also his declared admirer. Thus the question in Egypt is not the winner of presidential elections but the turnout at the polls. The giant posters of al-Sisi seen hanging in the streets are not an appeal to his presidency but rather an encouragement to support him by going out to vote. Indeed, while his victory is obvious, the same can’t be said for public opinion’s consensus, especially as regards the young.
The voice of Orthodox Christians. Tawadros II is the patriarch of Orthodox Copts who represent 10% of the overall population, consisting of 93 million people. He welcomes us in his papal residence located in Cairo’s Abbasseya district, near St. Mark’s cathedral, where on April 9, 2017 25 people were killed in a terror attack.
“Presidential elections are always an extremely important opportunity for Egyptians to express love for their homeland”, he said.
“That’s why voter participation is important. The President-in-office is extremely popular and the population at large wants him re-elected to complete two crucial battles in the history of modern Egypt. First of all, terrorism and violence: a war that Egypt is fighting worldwide. The second challenge involves development and progress, which equally affects the global domain, for Egypt’s stability is a guarantee of stability for the entire world.”
Egypt to the polls. The Country faces three challenges, pointed out Mounir Farag, Egyptian surgeon, University Professor at Senghor University in Alexandria, member of the Pontifical Academy for Life. The first is the fight on terrorism, especially in the Sinai region. The second is the lack of security that caused a dramatic drop in tourism. “The Country has been without revenue from tourism for the past 7 years.” Finally, the Egyptian currency has been revaluated. The World Bank insisted that Egypt promote this process and al-Sisi complied in 2016. However, structural adjustment was too rapid for Egypt’s fragile society, and its impact was devastating.
“It’s like a surgeon who detects the progression of gangrene and opts for amputation undermining the poorest brackets and the middle class”, Mounir said.
Food and beverages prices have increased by 32.3% and a new wave of increases in the price of petrol, train tickets and electricity is expected in the coming months. To this must be added an unemployment rate of 18% (2017), with a peak of 33.1% among young people.
Development projects. In his four years in office al-Sisi launched a set of projects for the Country’s development, for the circulation of capital, new building yards and thus new job opportunities. For example, for the Christian population the building of a new Cathedral – yet to be completed – for the Orthodox Copts community in Cairo is a very important gesture. It is expected to be completed by the end of the year. A new development project for the Sinai region is also in the pipeline in the belief that the battle against terrorism entails job creation and overcoming isolation. The government also announced a plan to build a new capital in a deserted area located 45 km east of Cairo. The new city will extend for 700 square kilometres, to host 5 million inhabitants. The big question for the Egyptian people is whether al-Sisi will be able to complete these ambitious projects in the next 4 years.
Media. It’s another weak spot of al-Sisi’s Egypt. According to the World Press Freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Country ranks 161th out of 180 examined. “We need a quality leap in terms of news-media training and formation. Let’s take the Regeni-case: we failed to provide an accurate picture of the situation.”
The vote and the youths of the Revolution. Young people are the most painful unknown factor of al-Sisi. They are the youths that took to the streets in 2012 calling for democracy and justice. They were left disillusioned. “They believed in a positive outcome”, Mounir said. “Unfortunately they realized they’re weren’t facing a football match. A whole Country was at stake.” They will not go out and vote. Mounir Farag said: “We don’t want the President’s victory, what we want is for people to participate in the election with a high turnout at the polls. The same message is for the young. Even if you say no to al-Sisi, go and cast your vote.””:
“Voting is the first step towards freedom. Voting is a moral responsibility.”