Egypt

Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, died after an appearance in a Cairo courtroom on June 17.

Morsi was in a hearing facing espionage charges, reportedly stemming from alleged contacts with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, when he collapsed and later died, according to a report on Egyptian state television.

“While Morsi’s death is a single event, its long-term ramifications will be numerous and far-reaching,” said Jasmine M. El-Gamal, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security.

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Eight years ago today, a small group of Egyptians protested against their government. The protest grew, and led to millions of Egyptians coming to the streets across their country, eventually resulting in Hosni Mubarak resigning the presidency. His rule of three decades came to an end, but the revolutionary uprising was eventually subject to a counter-revolutionary wave. The final result of Egypt’s uprising cannot yet be measured, just as any uprising is eventually judged in decades, not years—but it is clear that the international community has moved beyond treating Egypt as a country in the throes of a democratic transition. The question is—how does engagement now compare to the revolutionary period?

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For decades, Egypt focused primarily on its foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa, and in the process neglected its Horn of Africa policy. Meanwhile, Ethiopia began construction on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile River. Problems along the Nile continue for Egypt as droughts, rising temperatures, and general effects of climate change demand a response to Egypt’s growing water needs.

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Internet censorship around the world, including in the Middle East, is not a new phenomenon. Freedom of expression facilitated by the internet can pose a threat to authoritarian leaders around the world who seek to maintain strict control over both the content their citizens consume and the content they post. A clear pattern of authoritarian use of the internet to limit citizens’ freedoms can be viewed across the Middle East. Yet most recently, it is in Egypt in particular that this practice appears to be most egregious.  

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Relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have been fractured for much of the past year. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June 2017 citing reports that Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had made remarks of the United States while offering support for Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Iran, and claiming Doha’s policies fueled regional terrorism and extremism.

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To no one’s surprise, Egyptians re-elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on March 29 by an overwhelming majority. However, according to an Atlantic Council analyst, one of Sisi’s priorities in his second term may be securing a third.

“He has one major issue that I think he will go after in the first couple of years,” said Dr H.A. Hellyer, a non-resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, “which is to address the existence of a two-term limit article in the constitution.”

Under current laws, Sisi’s second four-year term must be his last. However, said Hellyer, he is likely to consolidate power and work to extend his time in office. The idea has a recent precedent—Chinese President Xi Jinping did away with term limits in China earlier this month.

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Evidenced by low voter turnout in the presidential election, Egypt’s optimism after the 2011 revolution that ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak has been replaced by apathy amid the rule of a new strongman, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In Egypt’s third presidential election since the revolution, Sisi ran for his second term as president in the voting that occurred over three days, from March 26-28. After the 2014 election in which Sisi won close to 97 percent of the vote, his victory this time around is all but guaranteed. Sisi’s sole opponent at the polls is the leader of the centrist Ghad party Moussa Mostafa Moussa. However, even Moussa endorsed Sisi before entering the race at the last minute and was widely viewed as a hollow candidate placed on the ballot so that Sisi would not run unopposed.

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Egyptians are going to the polls to vote in a presidential election for the third time since the uprisings of 2011. The act of voting for a president who could, ostensibly, be voted out was a novelty. Hosni Mubarak served five six-year terms before stepping down in February of 2011, and Egyptians were keen on taking advantage of their new rights. This election, however, is likely to see a low turnout at the polls. 

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We asked several Egypt experts where they think Egypt stands seven years after the January 25, 2011 uprising that led to the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. A common takeaway has been that Egypt is continuing to regress to its pre-2011 days.

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After a more than four-year absence, Jund al-Islam (JAI) has returned to the forefront in Sinai, marking a new chapter in the fierce conflict between al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (Daesh, ISIL, ISIS). The group published an audio recording in which it took credit for an attack targeting ISIS affiliates in Sinai known as Wilayat Sinai (WS). Jund al-Islam deemed them Kharitjites or those that defected from the group, and demanded that WS leaders turn themselves in. This attack raises many questions related to the sudden timing of Jund al-Islam’s emergence, its relationship with al-Qaeda, and the likely impact of the renewal of old hostilities between Wilayat Sinai and Jund al-Islam.

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