Sisi presidency sign of Egypt’s advancing counter-revolution

Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s recent “win” in Egypt’s Presidential elections and the jailing of key activists are signs of the advancing counter-revolution.

Sisi, former head of the armed forces, wants to co-opt support for the Egyptian revolution and shore up support for the return to military power.

But a dismal voter turnout, continuing protests and his inability to address economic inequality show that the counter-revolution is far from complete.

Crackdown on dissent

In the lead-up to the presidential election, the military ramped up a crackdown on dissent.

There are now an estimated 40,000 political prisoners in Egypt’s jails. It is estimated that 1000 protesters, mainly Muslim Brotherhood members, have been killed since the downfall of the Brotherhood government in July last year.

Mahienour el-Massry, a leading member of the Revolutionary Socialists, has been jailed for two years for protesting the murder of political blogger Khaled Said by police.

Leading activist Abdel Fattah was recently sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for attending a protest, without his defence team even being able to attend the trial.

Their imprisonment follows the outlawing of protest movements. On the same day that death sentences were announced for 683 Muslim Brotherhood supporters in April, a court banned the secular April 6 youth movement.

The ban shows how Sisi wants to isolate and crush the revolutionary left. Police attacked a press conference to launch a solidarity campaign for the release of Mahienour el-Massry. Afterwards activists formed a human chain of protesters holding banners along the coast road.

“Within minutes we were attacked by the police led by Nasser al-Abd, head of the secret police in Alexandria,” Revolutionary Socialist Taher Muktar told Socialist Worker.

“He is well-known as being the police chief who led attacks on demonstrations and protests under Mubarak. They arrested me and 14 other protesters and sexually harassed some of the women.

“They assaulted us in the street, beating us with the back of guns and sticks and fists. They stole money, mobiles and other belongings, and held us for six hours.”

However Mahienour and her solidarity campaign remain resolute. In a recent letter from her prison cell she refused to beg for amnesty and said “The regime is the one who should ask for amnesty from the people”.

Leading trade unionists from the Ministry of Labour, Petrotrade, Misr Spinning in Mahalla, Nasr Cars, Steam Boilers Company, teachers, electricity workers and public transport workers’ unions joined the launch of Mahienour’s solidarity campaign. Many of these workers have led important strikes in recent years.

The ability of workers to mobilise against the crackdown will be critical to stopping the counter-revolution. It was a militant strike wave in 2011 that was the nail in the coffin of Mubarak. The workers movement is not on the offensive at the moment but it hasn’t yet been broken.

Electoral sham

El-Sisi hoped the presidential election would boost his popular credentials and democratic legitimacy. Sisi was initially talking about an 80 per cent voter turnout but now even government claims of 47 per cent turnout seem unlikely. This shows real disillusionment with Sisi and the election process.

The state went to extreme lengths to avoid humiliation. Polling stations stayed open an extra day and public sector workers were given the day off to vote.

“Public sector workers were told they would have 500 Egyptian pounds taken from their wages if they didn’t vote,” said Revolutionary Socialist Wassim Wagdy. For many, this would amount to a month’s pay.

El-Sisi’s only opponent was left nationalist Hamdeen Sabahi. The much publicised 93 per cent for el-Sisi and 3 per cent for Sabahi doesn’t tell the real story. Official figures showed several polling stations registering zero votes for Sabahi. This led to an outpouring of complaints from people saying they had voted for him there and asking, “What happened to our votes?” There were multiple reports of electoral officers falling asleep at the booths and votes for Sabahi found in toilets and on the streets.

Sisi does have real support from a section of society who want stability after three years of turmoil. But a recent poll shows a much smaller approval rating than the vote would indicate. Some 45 per cent view el-Sisi unfavourably, compared to 54 per cent approval.

The Revolutionary Socialists argued for a vote for Sabahi as a way to expose Sisi’s agenda. Millions of people did not support Sisi and fall for his propaganda. Much of the Egyptian youth also seemed to boycott the elections.

The counter-revolution is on the offensive. But Sisi is not as powerful as he would like to be.

By Feiyi Zhang

Pass this motion in your workplace/union/organisation

This [workplace/meeting] notes:

(i) that the Egyptian military regime has introduced repressive laws attacking the right to public assembly and freedom of expression and in particular has banned the right to protest without permission of the Egyptian authorities;

(ii) we note that lawyer and Revolutionary Socialist activist Mahienour el-Massry and 8 other activists have been sentenced to two years jail for organizing a protest in 2013 outside of the trial of a police officer who murdered a political blogger, Khaled Said;

We therefore:

(i) condemn the Egyptian military regime for its attack on democratic rights and political opponents; and

(ii) condemn the jailing of Mahienour el-Massry and other Egyptian political prisoners and call for their immediate release.


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