Egypt’s Sisi Is a Strong, Confident—and Vulnerable—Autocrat

Egypt’s Sisi Is a Strong, Confident—and Vulnerable—Autocrat
A rare anti-government protest in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 21, 2019 (dpa photo via AP by Oliver Weiken).

Egyptians witnessed something rare last Friday night: protests against President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Amid heightened repression, Egyptians have mostly stayed home ever since Sisi took power in a 2013 coup, two and a half years after mass protests had led to the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. Sisi quickly and ruthlessly crushed any opposition, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood. He jailed Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, and other Islamist leaders, along with any perceived critics of his regime. It’s no wonder most Egyptians have opted to keep their heads down.

Friday’s protests, which unfolded in Cairo and other cities, were small but significant. Just as telling was the government’s reaction. Taken together, and in the context of some of Sisi’s foreign policy decisions, they add up to a picture of an authoritarian leader who is strong and confident, but not without vulnerabilities.

The protests were called from abroad by an exiled former government contractor, who in a series of videos has accused Sisi of corruption and mismanagement. While demonstrators were calling for his ouster, Sisi was at the United Nations in New York. The authorities in Egypt responded to the protests forcefully, but without bloodshed—a sharp contrast to the massacre in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya square in August 2013, when security forces killed hundreds of unarmed protesters staging a sit-in against Sisi’s coup. There may not have been bloodshed this time, but according to human rights groups, more than a thousand people have been arrested.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review