Egypt – Election Result Bolsters Sisi
The first legislative elections since 2012 have produced a new Parliament dominated by lawmakers broadly supportive of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, promising a solid degree of policy continuity in 2016. Competition for influence among various pro-government parties poses some risk of divisions that could complicate the government’s efforts to secure approval of legislation, but such a development is more likely to reinforce President Sisi’s personal dominance within the political system than to jeopardize overall political stability.
Longstanding divisions that were apparent within the political establishment under former President Hosni Mubarak are also likely to be evident in the current regime. In particular, tensions can be expected between Sisi’s backers in the military and security apparatus—who want to preserve the military’s substantial commercial interests and the state’s central role in the economy—and business leaders who favor pro-market reforms and a reduced role for the military in the economic arena.
Nevertheless, based on the early actions of the Parliament, it appears that enough independent lawmakers are on board to provide the pro-government faction with a majority. The Parliament convened for the first time on January 10, and lawmakers have just 15 days to approve some 340 measures enacted by decree since President Mohamed Morsi was toppled from office in mid-2013; lack of approval would result in immediate repeal of the laws. The controversial anti-terrorism laws that have already been used to silence critics of the government have been approved, amid complaints by some lawmakers that legislative leaders are employing questionable means of fast-tracking measures in an effort to beat the clock.
Notwithstanding the early evidence of factional tensions, no political grouping likely to wield influence in the Parliament figures to pose a direct threat to the presidential administration. The composition of the Cabinet is unaffected by the election results, with the government continuing to be led by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail. As long as Sisi can deliver on his promises to maintain domestic order and revive the economy, he will be able to legitimately claim to have a popular mandate. Ironically, the financial support extended by the Sunni-majority Persian Gulf kingdoms that has been crucial to meeting the latter of those challenges has created entangling alliances that will make it more difficult to fend off the threat posed by Islamist extremists, which is the main obstacle to meeting the former.
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