One Year On: Domestic Politics Under Sisi

Elected just over a year ago with 96.1 percent of the votes, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi promised to rule in an inclusive manner. Over the past year, however, political parties have complained of marginalization, the Muslim Brotherhood, together with secular activists, have faced a harsh crackdown, and the public has balked over some of the recent choices made regarding ministerial appointments. While Sisi’s cabinet has seen some positive developments, including the scrapping of the ministry of information, a key demand made by activists and politicians, the dismissal of the notorious Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, and a marked reduction in military men appointed as governors, the year been particularly repressive. Parliamentary elections have been pushed back repeatedly, and are not expected to be held before the end of the year. 

One Year On

Over the course of the coming days, EgyptSource will publish a series of blog posts highlighting milestones marking Sisi’s first year in power. An in-depth look at the domestic politics, foreign policy, human rights, economic developments, legislation, and the media will give a comprehensive overview of the past year.

Sisi’s Government 

June 16, 2014: Announced ten days after his election, Sisi’s first cabinet was characterized by the following:

  • Headed by the reappointed Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab
  • Twenty-one ministers serving under the interim government remained
  • Thirteen new ministers sworn in
  • Sisi scrapped the Ministry of Information

Newly appointed ministers included:

  • Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry
  • Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour
  • Minister of International Cooperation Nagla al-Ahwany
  • Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman
  • Minister of Justice Mahfouz Saber
  • Minister of Transitional Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ibrahim al-Heniedy

Ministers who remained in their positions included:

  • Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim
  • Minister of Defense Sedky Sobhy
  • Minister of Manpower Nahed Ashry
  • Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Waly
  • Minister of Finance Hany Kadry
  • Minister of Planning Ashraf al-Araby
  • Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa

A full list of the cabinet and their bios can be found here.

Ministerial Changes

While there has not been a major cabinet reshuffle since his election, a few ministers have been changed over the past year under Sisi:

  • Two new cabinet positions were announced: minister of state for population and minister of technical education.
  • The following ministers were replaced in March 2015:
  • Minister of Agriculture
  • Minister of Culture
  • Minister of Education
  • Minister of Population
  • MInister of Communications
  • Minister of Tourism
  • Minister of Technical Education and Training.

Minister of Justice

Justice Minister Mahfouz Saber resigned from his position in May 2015 after comments he made were deemed classist. In a telephone interview, Saber said that the children of sanitation workers cannot become judges. The outrage that followed resulted in his resignation. Replacing Saber, however, a few days later was an extremely polarizing figure. Head of the Judges Club, Ahmed al-Zend, and a vocal critic of the Muslim Brotherhood was sworn in by Sisi a week later.

In addition to playing a key role within the judiciary in the battle between Morsi and the judicial branch, Zend himself has made several controversial statements about the appointment of judges. “The sons of judges will continue to be appointed annually,” Zend was quoted as saying, in support of the right to appoint the sons of judges within the judiciary. Zend was also critical of the January 2011 uprising, saying that it led to the Brotherhood’s seizure of power.  

Minister of Interior

Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim, who remained in his position under Morsi, Mansour, and Sisi, was replaced in a minor cabinet shuffle in March 2015. His removal was attributed to failures to address security concerns, and he was replaced by General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar. After a thirty-year-long career with the State Security Department (SSD), Abdel-Ghaffar was removed from his position in 2008 by then-Interior Minister Habib al-Adly. He was transferred to the Ports Authority Department, but in 2011, after the January uprising he was appointed Deputy Director of the National Security Department (a rebranded name of the SSD). Upon his appointment, he was critical of tactics used by the SSD under Mubarak, and said that he shut down departments within the security force tasked with spying on citizens. Morsi ordered Abdel Ghaffar’s removal in August 2012.


In February 2015, Sisi oversaw his first governor reshuffle in which seventeen new governors were sworn in. Only ten governors remained in their positions. Several university professors, two judges, three generals, a former columnist, and several government officials were among the new Egyptian governors. There were appointed to the provinces of Alexandria, Giza, Luxor, Ismailia, Kafr al-Sheikh, Mounifeya, Beheira, Daqahliya, Gharbeya, Sharqeya, Damietta, Assiut, Fayoum, Beni Suef, Sohag, Matruh and Port Said. The ten governors remaining in their positions included the governors of Cairo, North Sinai, and South Sinai. Full details on the seventeen new governors can be found here.


Sisi appointed three new advisers in November 2014. They are:

  • Presidential Advisor for National Security: Former Planning and International Cooperation Minister Fayza Aboul Naga
  • Presidential Advisor for Security Affairs: Former Minister of Interior Ahmed Gamal El-Din
  • Secretary-General of the National Security Council: Khaled Ali al-Bakly

Parliamentary Elections

According to the original roadmap, parliamentary elections were slated to be held by the end of 2014. After several delays, the High Electoral Committee announced the elections would begin on March 22, 2015. Less than two weeks before the vote was set to take place, the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) suspended the elections. For the second time in the past four years, the SCC deemed the laws governing the elections unconstitutional. The latest iterations of the laws have been submitted to the State Council for its review, but the law still favors independent candidates. 75 percent of the seats are allocated to independent candidates, while the president will appoint twenty-nine candidates. Of the 120 seats allocated to party lists, the law stipulates quotas for women, Christians, workers or farmers, youth, disabled Egyptians, and expatriates. Sisi has promised elections will be held by the end of the year.

Prior to the suspension of elections, several coalitions were formed, bringing together secular parties, and parties dominated by figures from the Mubarak-era National Democratic Party. The only Islamist Party that has said it will participate in the elections is the Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist group to have supported Morsi’s ouster.

Most Islamist parties had announced their intention to boycott the elections including the Wasat, Watan, and Building and Development parties.

The Democratic Current Alliance, which comprises the Dostour Party, Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Popular Current, the Freedom Egypt Party, the Bread and Freedom Party, and the Adl Party, also announced their intention to boycott.

The centrist Strong Egypt Party, led by former Muslim Brotherhood member, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh made a similar announcement.

Political Crackdown

The Muslim Brotherhood
The Muslim Brotherhood was designated a terrorist group by the Egyptian government several months before Sisi’s election. A committee was formed by the government to seize and manage assets owned by Brotherhood members. In January 2014, the committee announced it had seized assets of over 900 Brotherhood members and over 1,000 associations. In August 2014, a few months after Sisi came to power, the group’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party was dissolved by court order.

Party Leadership: The majority of the party’s leadership is in jail or has fled Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, Mohamed Badie, his deputy Mahmoud Ezzat, as well as Guidance Bureau members Khairat al-Shater, Mahmoud Ghozlan, Mohamed al-Beltagy, and former speaker of the house, Saad al-Katatny, are all facing death sentences. Badie himself has been sentenced to death multiple times. Mohamed Ali Beshr, a leading Brotherhood member who was described as a key negotiator between the group and the government, was arrested in November 2014, and is facing multiple charges including conspiring with Norway and the United States against Egypt.

Mohamed Morsi: Former president Mohamed Morsi was also sentenced to death in May 2015 on charges relating to a 2011 prison break, as well as to twenty years on charges of inciting violence against protesters. Morsi’s death sentence was referred to the Grand Mufti for his non-binding opinion, and a final decision is expected on June 16. The final verdict can be appealed, but it remains to be seen whether Morsi will appeal. He had previously said he does not recognize the legitimacy of the court. The former president is still facing several other charges including espionage, insulting the judiciary, fraud, and leaking sensitive documents to Qatar.

Mohamed Soltan: While not a Brotherhood member himself, Mohamed Soltan was arrested during the dispersal of Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in. The son of leading Brotherhood member Salah Soltan, who has also been sentenced to death, Soltan, who spent over 400 days on hunger strike, was sentenced in April to life in prison on charges of spreading false news and supporting the Brotherhood. In late May, the dual Egyptian-American citizen was deported to the United States, after giving up his Egyptian citizenship. His lawyer said Soltan’s deportation was per a presidential decree issued by Sisi last November allowing the repatriation of foreign defendants or convicts. Soltan’s family issued a statement saying that the US government had made “extensive efforts” to secure Soltan’s release.

Recent Arrests: Most recently, in June 2015, the government accused the Brotherhood of creating a cell to “collect intelligence information to carry out hostile attacks against state institutions, especially the army, police, judges, media figures, in addition to political leaders and public figures on orders from leaders inside and outside to create a terrorist cell.” Two more Brotherhood leaders, Abdel-Rahman al-Bar and Mahmoud Ghozlan, were arrested in the wake of the announcement.

National Alliance to Support Legitimacy: The Brotherhood appears severely weakened, and its pro-Morsi umbrella group, the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, has lost several key party members including the Wasat, Watan, and Building and Development parties. The Brotherhood has failed to mobilize large-scale protests, even when marking the anniversary of the violent dispersal of the Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in, or after the sentencing of Morsi to death.

Secular Movements

Under Sisi Egypt is experiencing what many have described as its worst period repression since the Nasser era. In addition to the Muslim Brotherhood, secular movements including the April 6 Youth Movement, as well as student movements, have been targeted.

April 6 Youth Movement: In April 2014, a court banned the activities of the April 6 Youth Movement, a group that had been integral to the January 2011 uprising and who had participated in the protests against Morsi. Leading members of the group, including co-founder Ahmed Maher, are in jail. Maher is currently serving a three year sentence on charges of violating the protest law, alongside member Mohamed Adel. Most recently, the April 6 Youth Movement has accused the interior ministry of carrying out dawn raids arresting its members ahead of planned protests on June 6.

Student Movements: Students Against the Coup has been the most active student movement in universities nationwide. Universities that have witnessed the most upheaval include Cairo University and Al-Azhar University. Several measures have been taken by the government to clamp down on student dissent including allowing police on campus ground. University laws have also been amended to allow for the suspension or expulsion of students, staff, and faculty. In its annual report, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), said that in 2014, police stormed university campuses eight-eight times. The report added that twelve students had been killed and at least 760 arrests, with only ninety-nine of them released to date.

Other Secular Activists: Many others, who protested against both Mubarak and Morsi, are facing lengthy prison sentences doled out under the current regime. Activist Ahmed Douma was sentenced to life, while Alaa Abdel Fattah is serving a five year sentence. While they were sentenced in relation to protests that took place in the past year, Alexandria-based activist Mahienour al-Masry is the latest to have her sentence upheld, sentenced to fifteen months in prison alongside three others, on charges relating to a protest held in 2013 under Morsi. A day later, another twenty-nine defendants were sentenced on charges relating to a 2013 protest against Morsi. A grassroots organization Freedom for the Brave, announced in June that there have been 163 cases of forced disappearances since April.

Image: Photo: Reuters/Amr Dalsh