Between passion and indifference: How do Egyptians see the US elections and al-Sisi?

62

The US elections seemed to be an Egyptian affair receiving much more attention that may have exceeded the interest in Egyptian parliamentary elections that took place simultaneously.

Several shreds of evidence show a broad Egyptian interest in the American elections, including that these elections are competitive, something that is lacking in Egyptian society. An activist commented on this passion using the proverb, “the hungry man dreams of the bread market.” Although Egypt has the oldest parliamentary experience in the Arab world and Africa, it conducts its elections in the shadow of a contest between two controversial candidates. As for the third reason for Egyptians’ interest in the elections, there is a prevailing perception that every candidate represents a trend that will affect the course of the Egyptian and Arab political situation. The fourth reason is that new generations are more closely related to following global political events by virtue of the development of communication paths that have deepened between knowledge, expression, and political practice.

Here, they compare between the situations of countries witnessing competitive elections (even if some of them criticised their content), and countries that failed in the test of democracy, or whose paths faltered after the broad hopes produced by the Arab revolutions, the revolutions of Egypt and Tunisia in particular. Perhaps the exit of Egypt’s youth in their revolutions was an extension of their follow-up to the elections in the world, and their comparison between the conditions of their country’s youth with other countries that have democratic systems, including competitive elections, the possibilities for political participation and freedom of expression. It is true that their view, four years after the revolution, showed that democracy in the countries of the Arab revolutions is not sufficient to bring about necessary changes and that massive economic changes are necessary. Still, their passion for the importance of democracy has not changed. Most Egyptians prefer the democratic system, even if it has flaws.

Two parties dominate the scene in Egypt, or two fronts, to be precise: those loyal to the regime, most of whom are hostile to the Arab revolutions, see Trump as an ally and supporter of them, and they tend (like Trump) to the populist tendency and the conspiratorial interpretation to the Egyptian revolution and democratic changes. On the other hand, most Biden supporters see his success as an opportunity to destabilise a bleak political scene after the failure of the Arab revolutions and the return of some old regimes. Trump’s supporters are particularly afraid of these people and consider them a conspiracy tool to fragment the region through the so-called Arab Spring. While the supporters of the regime believe that Biden will support the supporters of the Arab revolutions, as heir to the orientations of former President Barack Obama, they are afraid of any American pressure which will disturb the current political situation.

Although the interest in the newspapers has diminished, there are limited articles, some warning Joe Biden, and some reassuring those who are afraid of the departure of Donald Trump. However, the media channels were the most expressive of the fears of the power elites and their concern about the Democrats’ arrival to the White House, which means the loss of Trump as a supporter of the regime. Biden, as they see it, supports the calls of anarchists who support the Arab revolutions. They do not hide their fears of the new US administration’s pressures to release political detainees and hold free elections. Some assert, and perhaps this is the main concern, that Biden may return the Muslim Brotherhood to power. Some of them promote funny allegations about numerous indications that Biden is the MB’s candidate and supported by it.

The Egyptian media’s discourse developed with the progress of the announcement of the results, as the shock was evident on the broadcasters of satellite channels owned by or close to the security services, with Biden progressing against Trump. Although the election results were welcomed at the beginning of the counting process, with the successive indications of Trump’s loss, who had previously described Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as his “favourite dictator,” the Egyptian media reached the point of questioning the integrity of the US elections. The Egyptian media echoed the pro-Trump team’s statements that the elections were rigged, that the dead voted, there were bribes and dancing in the committees.

Removing the previous accusations from their context, they are suitable for describing scenes from the Egyptian parliament elections, some of which were recorded and broadcast on social media, and were implicated by candidates belonging to the Nation’s Future Party, which one of its leaders described as the New Democratic National Party. After the scepticism that ended with the shock of announcing Biden’s victory, the Egyptian media turned to celebrate al-Sisi congratulating Biden on the victory. Gradually, the unified media discourse shifted to emphasising the “strength of the state of June 30,” referring to Egypt during the reign of al-Sisi, and that this state was born during the rule of the democrats of America, and that Egypt now is stronger than what it was at that time.

As usual, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic movement, and the opposition, in general, had the largest share of the media discourse, which was keen to stress that they had no hope of returning to power with the support of Biden and his upcoming democratic administration. However, there is a common admission that the democrats will constitute a headache for the Egyptian regime regarding the file of freedoms and political detainees.

According to journalist Essam Shaaban, Egyptians are convinced that changing the American president means changes in the regime’s policies. He added, “From here, the tendency to hope among one team and apprehension in the other team becomes evident, indicating the continued association of many elites with old visions, based on external factors, a decisive factor in any change, which has proven to be weak in practice after the Arab revolutions.” Shaaban pointed out this interest is not new, “because Egypt, by virtue of many factors, including political and demographic weight, is a mirror of political conflicts.” He said, “We saw the same scene to a lesser extent, concerning the US election round in 2016 between Hillary Clinton and