As Egypt’s presidential election draws closer, the government of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has resolutely quashed any hope that it will allow even a hint of democratic legitimacy. Registration for the March election closed this week after authorities made sure every credible candidate was pushed out of the contest, either through arrest or intimidation. A token contender, whose party had already endorsed Sisi, was added at the last minute to avoid the embarrassment of a one-man race.
The spectacle has been thoroughly demoralizing not only for the opposition, but also for many of the Egyptians who welcomed Sisi nearly half a decade ago as a savior who could pull the country back from the increasingly illiberal policies of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that was elected in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.
The former military chief, who came to power in a 2013 coup on the heels of mass protests, credited his rise to the will of the people and was wildly popular at first. Yet he has shown he no longer trusts them to give him their support. And he is making sure no one in the powerful military mounts a challenge.