CAIRO, April 3 — The re-election of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi for a second four-year term is expected to lead to further stable economic and security conditions in the most populous Arab state after years of economic slowdown and terrorist challenges, said Egyptian experts.
On Monday, Sisi was officially announced to win the presidential election, getting more than 21.8 million votes that make up over 97 percent of valid ballots, amid some 41 percent turnout of nearly 60 million eligible voters.
Sisi’s sole rival in the election, liberal politician Moussa Mostafa Moussa, garnered less than 3 percent of the valid votes.
“Generally, Sisi’s re-election equals more stability and makes investors confident in the Egyptian market,” said Rashad Abdo, an economics professor at Cairo University and also head of the Egyptian Forum for Economic and Strategic Studies.
To boost economy, Egypt started in late 2016 with full local currency floatation as an initial step of a strict three-year economic reform program based on austerity measures, fuel and energy subsidy cuts and tax hikes.
Egypt’s reform plan has been encouraged by a 12-billion-dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund, half of which has already been delivered to the country.
Abdo said Sisi’s re-election leads to further security and stability. It will also bring better Egyptian foreign relations and reassure local and foreign investors. “As you can see, the Egyptian Stock Exchange logically marked a rise after the president’s re-election.”
President Sisi came to office in mid-2014, a year after he, as the army chief then, led the ouster of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in response to mass protests. Since then, he has been working on national mega projects to develop the country’s infrastructure and pave the way for further foreign investments.
The projects Sisi has started include the establishment of a new administrative capital city, the Suez Canal corridor development, the reclamation of 1.5 million feddans of lands (about 6,300 square km), 1 million housing units for youths and the loans of 200 billion Egyptian pounds (about 11.3 billion U.S. dollars) for youth enterprises.
“His re-election will allow him to continue the huge national projects he has started, for a different president might have different priorities that would negatively affect those projects,” the economist told Xinhua.
Abdo noted that before Sisi, the economic growth rate was 1.8 percent which has amounted this year to about 5 percent.
“The unemployment rate, for instance, was 14.8 percent before Sisi and now it has gone as low as 11.2 percent, which is a good indicator,” he continued, noting that the budget deficit is also on the decline under Sisi’s administration.
Since Morsi’s ouster in early July 2013 and the ban of his Muslim Brotherhood group as a terrorist organization, Egypt has been suffering a wave of terror activities that killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, as well as civilians, with most of the attacks claimed by a Sinai-based group affiliated with the Islamic State regional terrorist group.
On the other hand, the Egyptian forces killed hundreds of terrorists and arrested thousands of suspects during the country’s anti-terror war declared by Sisi right after Morsi’s removal.
“The re-election of Sisi represents the Egyptian people’s belief in his keenness to fight terrorism and maintaining security and stability in the country to provide a suitable investment climate,” said security expert Hamdy Bakhit, a Egyptian parliament member and a retired armed forces general.
Terror operations in Egypt had been centered in restive North Sinai province bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip before they later expanded to reach other provinces including the capital Cairo and started to target the Coptic minority via church bombings and shootings.
Apart from security men and Copts, the terrorists further targeted a mosque in North Sinai’s Arish city last November, killing at least 310 Muslim worshippers and injuring more than 120 others, which marks the deadliest terror attack and the first against a mosque in Egypt’s modern history.
“In his first presidential term, Sisi proved high efficiency in reading future threats of terrorists and their backing states,” Bakhit told Xinhua, adding that his re-election would give him a chance to continue Egypt’s anti-terror war and eradicate terrorism nationwide.
Under Sisi, a massive upgrade of the military equipments has taken place with arm deals with Western states, including France and Germany, bringing the Egyptian armed forces advanced fighter jets, submarines and warships.
“His focus on rebuilding the armed forces gives a strong, deterrent message to whoever attempts to mess with Egypt’s national security,” said the security expert.
Sisi’s administration faced regional and international pressures following Morsi’s ouster that was met with the rejection of some African and Western states.
Eventually, the Egyptian foreign policy managed to improve the country’s relations with fellow African states and Western powers, particularly in the light of Egypt’s important role in the world’s war against terrorism.
“Fighting terrorism will be a major axis in the Egyptian foreign policy in the coming four years and Egypt will continue working with international, regional and Arab allies on fighting terrorism,” said Hussein Haridy, a former Egyptian assistant foreign minister.
Over the past couple of years, Egypt has been arranging meetings with warring Libyan parties to work on a political settlement for the Libyan crisis.
Last year, Cairo hosted the signing of de-escalation zone deals between the Syrian government and rebel groups in an attempt to stop the killings and displacements of civilians in rebel-held areas.
“Egypt will continue working on activating the United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Syria and Libya and exert all efforts to achieve security and stability in the two fellow Arab states,” the ex-diplomat told Xinhua.
Egypt has recently condemned the killing of Palestinian protesters by Israeli troops in occupied Palestinian territories and has repeatedly expressed full support to the Palestinian rights, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital in the light of the UN-proposed two-state solution based on the pre-1967 borders.
Although Egypt is a main regional ally to the United States, ties between the two countries were cold under former U.S. President Barack Obama after Morsi’s overthrow, but they later improved when Donald Trump, who has just congratulated Sisi on his re-election.
Still, Egypt, like most world states, rejects Trump’s recent decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to relocate Washington’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the debated holy city.
“Egypt pays a special interest in the Palestinian cause whether through activating inter-Palestinian reconciliation or containing any Palestinian disagreement with influential foreign parties, particularly the United States and the West,” Haridy explained.
The former diplomat said that Egypt under Sisi will seek expansion of its cooperation with Mediterranean states to face Turkey’s regional expansion ambitions.
“Egypt’s foreign policy goes according to the changes of the international system that has seen the rise of some other powers … which requires redirection of the Egyptian foreign policy towards big powers,” the ex-diplomat concluded.