Egypt’s President Sisi to Run Again as Economic Crisis Deepens

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi confirmed he’ll seek a another term in December elections he’s widely expected to win, as the nation reels from its worst economic crisis in years.

(Bloomberg) — Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi confirmed he’ll seek a another term in December elections he’s widely expected to win, as the nation reels from its worst economic crisis in years.

The Dec. 10-12 vote will see the country’s plight take center stage, with inflation at a record high of 37% and Egypt’s sovereign bonds trading in distressed territory. The government is racing to unlock more financing from a $3 billion International Monetary Fund rescue package and from sales of state assets to energy-rich Gulf nations including the United Arab Emirates.

El-Sisi, speaking late Monday, extolled the state’s accomplishments over the past few years. 

May “God choose the one who is fit,” he said. “As I heeded the call of the Egyptians before, today, I answer their call again.”

Any challenger faces the daunting task of unseating a former field marshal who’s backed by the powerful military and other state institutions, and has been in power since 2014. That was a year after an army-backed popular uprising ousted his Islamist predecessor, Mohamed Mursi, under whom El-Sisi served as defense minister.

In the runup to his announcement, El-Sisi appeared at state events to promote what he says are the accomplishments of the past decade, including a massive overhaul of infrastructure, the construction of a new administrative capital city and an expansion of the Suez Canal.

He has derided critics who say the billions of dollars of spending on such projects helped spur a debt crisis that’s made life increasingly unaffordable for many in the Middle East’s most populous country.

On Monday, he again stressed his focus on building a “New Republic,” a process that he says involves sacrifice on the part of all.

“If the price of development and prosperity for the nation means we do not eat or drink, we will do it,” El-Sisi told a conference on Sept. 30, according to the state-run Ahram Online news website.

Egypt has devalued its pound three times since early 2022 and another major adjustment is expected before it can pass a critical IMF program review. In further evidence of the challenges the country faces, the non-oil private sector slipped deeper into contraction in September, according to a Purchasing Managers’ Index.

Investors are expecting another devaluation sometime after the vote. The country is facing a dire shortage of hard currency, with the pound trading at about 40 per dollar on the black market, 22% weaker than its official value of 30.9.

El-Sisi won elections in 2014 and 2018 with more than 90% of the votes, and securing a new six-year term would extend his rule until about 2030. That would see him overtake Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat to become Egypt’s longest-serving president after Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak ruled for almost 30 years before being toppled by protests in 2011.

Touting Stability

Authorities are framing El-Sisi’s re-election bid as crucial to maintaining the political stability Egypt has seen since the overthrow of Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.

Before El-Sisi spoke on Monday, crowds of his supporters gathered around notary offices across the country to endorse a bid. Under Egyptian law, presidential candidates need to secure either the backing of at last 20 members of parliament or 25,000 registered voters from 15 provinces.

So far, three other candidates have garnered the support to formally enter the race: Hazem Omar of the Republican People’s Party, Abdel-Sanad Yamam of the liberal Wafd Party and Farid Zahran of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

Local media reported some other would-be candidates were facing difficulties in getting endorsements after their supporters were harassed. The National Elections Commission dismissed those claims.

One potential challenger is former lawmaker Ahmed El-Tantawi. Posting on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, he urged his supporters to “cling to hope despite all the pain and to struggle until we achieve our simplest and most important right — to build our present and create our future.”

(Recasts and updates with additional comments, PMI figures.)

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