By Dr Walaa Ramadan
A year ago, on July 3, 2013, we witnessed the overthrow of Egypt’s first democratically-elected civilian president and the first president since the January 25 revolution. The overthrow of Dr Mohamed Morsi came after just one year of his presidential term in a coup led by his Minister of Defence, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi. It is timely to compare Morsi’s one year in power with Al-Sisi’s one year in power. The past 12 months have encompassed many unprecedented events, including a presidential campaign by Al-Sisi, who won an election which has been widely viewed as farcical and illegitimate.
During his presidential campaign, Al-Sisi was asked about some of the main issues facing Egyptians. Regarding the reoccurring electricity shortages, Al-Sisi’s big idea was that every citizen should replace their light-bulbs into energy-saving bulbs and reduce their use of electrical appliances. When Morsi was asked the same question during his presidential campaign in 2012, which he titled the “Renaissance Project”, he said he intended to use nuclear power to fill this deficit.
Many Egyptians cannot even afford to buy bread and queue to buy government-subsidised bread. Al-Sisi’s answer to this problem was that he would ask Egyptian families to sacrifice from the amount they eat and save just one piece of bread. “If 25 million families save a piece of bread by having three-quarters of a piece instead of a whole slice, there would be 25 million pieces of bread for those that do not have any,” he argued.
Morsi, on the other hand, saw that increasing the production of wheat was the way to solve this serious problem; he suggested renting land in Sudan or Ethiopia for cultivation in order to save water. His plan was for Egypt to be self-sufficient in wheat within four years.
Regarding the shortage of foreign currency reserves (as a result of the dearth of tourists and foreign investors), Al-Sisi suggested that every Egyptian living abroad should donate $10 a month to Egypt. Morsi’s solution was to increase the fee for all foreign ships passing through the Suez Canal.
With unemployment standing at 13.4 per cent of nearly 90 million Egyptians, Al-Sisi suggested buying a thousand carts for the youth to sell vegetables. For Dr Morsi, unemployment could be tackled by establishing micro-projects, such as assembling computers and televisions, and larger-scale projects such as the Suez Canal development project and other labour-intensive schemes. The Suez Canal project alone, according to Morsi, would not only increase national income but also provide up to a million jobs.
When Al-Sisi was asked for his position on the Camp David Treaty with Israel, he said that he will safeguard the agreement and will co-ordinate with Israel to protect the borders. When Dr Morsi was asked about his position, he stressed that Egypt is a country which maintains its international obligations providing other parties also keep to their commitments; it is impossible for “five million people anywhere to scare 90 million,” he said.
Whilst Al-Sisi seeks to administer a sticking-plaster to Egypt’s economic wounds, Morsi’s vision sought to cure the problems at their core and provide long-term solutions. “We have to produce our food, we have to produce our medicines, and we have to produce our weapons,” he insisted. Al-Sisi’s economic policy was hard to pinpoint during his presidential campaign, because he did not have one.
Morsi’s victory in the 2012 presidential election was a victory for the January 25 Revolution and for democracy. The revolution was famous for the unity it created among the Egyptian people, and his winning of five consecutive votes was an indication that they were united in selecting who they wanted to lead them. This year’s elections came on the back of the bloody coup which has taken the lives of over 8,000 people and seen more than 44,000 men, women and children imprisoned for their opposition to the military takeover and the annihilation of the revolution.
The past 365 days under Al-Sisi have seen the breakdown of many human rights in Egypt. The sanctity of human life was squandered with 8,000 killed and 20,000 injured, with the media and even some Islamic scholars belonging to the regime, advocating and encouraging such bloodshed. Egypt has also seen the abolition of freedoms and rights with 44,000 political prisoners incarcerated in jails, including 48 journalists, and hundreds issued with death sentences in recent months.
Since the coup, Egypt has seen the closure of television channels and newspapers and the arrest of journalists and students.
For Egyptians, the economy, security and personal freedoms are the key issues of concern. The past year has seen a culling of these freedoms, to a level never before seen in Egyptian history.
With Egyptians now fasting the holy month of Ramadan, many are facing severe difficulties in being able to feed their family with the increased prices of food and the continuous electricity cuts in Egypt’s harsh summer heat. Indeed, Ramadan entered Egypt forlornly this year, with new laws and restrictions to dictate even the spiritual aspect of the people. Hundreds of mosques are closed; ID cards are requested for entry into those that are open; and the nightly Ramadan prayers (taraweeh) are cut short. State television is doing its best to distract the people with 30 new drama series this Ramadan, but will the Egyptian people wake from their intoxication and look at what Egypt has become, and then join the “opposition”? Time will tell!