The general retreats: 5 achievements of protesting

Protests stormed the streets of Egyptian provinces in the weeks of September. People, for the first time during General al-Sisi’s mandate, announced their refusal of his politics and demanded his ouster. The events reshaped the political scene in Egypt and showed the arrogant general as a petty dictator who governs against the people’s will.

1. Petrol prices

The Egyptian Ministry of Petroleum announced the reduction of domestic fuel prices in a move that Egyptians consider the fifth achievement of the sudden and rare demonstrations witnessed in Egypt since September 20.

Egyptians said the fuel price cuts were very small, but it is the first of its kind under the rule of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is leading economic reforms that caused unprecedented price hikes.

Cynical activists on social media thanked the businessman and contractor Mohamed Ali, who lives in Spain, who called for demonstrations and demanded al-Sisi leave power. 

The Egyptian government has lowered the price of petrol by EGP 0.25 pounds per litre. One USD equals about EGP 16.30.

1. Supply

But that slight reduction in the price of petrol is not the only achievement, the Egyptian government also decided to disburse supplies (basic commodities at discounted prices) to those who were previously excluded. 

The government said the decision came in accordance with al-Sisi ‘s instructions, but activists say it came in accordance with popular pressure launched by Mohamed Ali.

The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade instructed the directorates of supply everywhere in the republic to distribute the ration decisions to those who are excluded from the ration card lists who have filed grievances to object to the decision to exclude them, pending the resolution of those grievances.

This comes after al-Sisi announced on social media that he is following himself what is being circulated about the exclusion of some citizens from ration cards.

Al-Sisi’s remarks were seen by activists as a retreat under pressure from popular protests, some of which resembled the recent statements of the late Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali when he came out with the famous phrase “I understood you,” in an attempt to absorb popular anger during the Tunisian revolution.

2. Imams

The achievements of the recent Egyptian demonstrations also extended to al-Sisi’s directives on the need to improve the living conditions of imams.

This came during a meeting with al-Sisi’s Minister of Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, in the presence of Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.

During the meeting, al-Sisi directed the Minister of Awqaf to develop the imams’ skills to face extremist ideology and improve their material and living conditions from the ministry’s own resources.

3. Contractors

Contractors were also lucky to have won a share of the impact of the recent demonstrations, as Madbouly directed the disbursement of arrears to the contractors.

During his videos Mohamed Ali talked about corruption and the non-payment of contractors’ dues.

Various sources working in the field of contracting in Egypt, and linked with work with the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces, received promises and assurances that they would receive their arrears before the end of this year.

The Prime Minister’s instructions came during his tour to inspect a number of service projects in Minya Governorate, southern Egypt.

4. Claimed political reform

The achievements of the demonstrations were not limited to the decline in the economy. Over the past few days, Egypt has witnessed promises of upcoming political reforms and talks about the importance of a free media and the freedom of expression.

Last week, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Ali Abdel Aal said that “the country needs the opposition in order to activate participation in construction and development,” adding that “the coming period will witness political and media reforms,” without further details.

This came during the opening session of the House of Representatives for the fifth session, according to state media, in conjunction with talks by regime supporters on the importance of political reform in the coming period.

At the same meeting, an MP and journalist close to the security services, Mustafa Bakri, said: “We must stop the hidden war against anyone who expresses his opinion.”

He added: “This is not Egypt, which we sacrificed for. [He] runs [the country] from behind the curtain [yet] we will say to him: stop.”

He continued: “We want genuine national reconciliation with the middle class, which has eroded and joined the toiling class, and reconciliation with the press, which turned into the [censored] media.”

He pointed to the spread of “poverty and many tragedies” and said that “the bitter reality is increasing, and governments are similar, and ministers are not qualified… saving Egypt from chaos in the hands of the president.”

Bakri was one of the media defenders of former President Hosni Mubarak, and was the first to file a complaint against him after his removal from power after the revolution of January 2011, as he was close to the late President Mohamed Morsi and then turned against him, and then became one of the strongest defenders of al-Sisi since he rose to power.

The talk of sudden political reform also came in an article a few days ago by journalist Yasser Rizk, who talked about information confirming the intention of political reform al-Sisi will present.

“I almost see something big on the horizon, perhaps a completed initiative, a programme that crystallises, or a brewing vision presented by the leader of his people, who pushes political reform forward,” said Rizk. 

Rizk, who was the first to announce the contents of the constitutional amendments that allowed the extension of al-Sisi ‘s presidency, appeared many times during the past few days, speaking of the need for political and media openness, stressing that he has information confirming the direction of the state to do so soon.

Rizk blamed one of the security services for restricting political life and media freedom, and answered a rare question in the Egyptian media about the army’s control of the economy. This criticism is rare, or the first of its kind among men close to al-Sisi.

Since taking office, al-Sisi has tried to preserve the image of a strong general who is scared of nothing and does not back down from any of his decisions, but in fact, recent demonstrations have made him retreat on more than one level.