The Media momentum was there: the constitutional referendum had passed without “major incidents” (which is code for polling stations not getting blown up), the presidential elections law was issued, Adly Mansour promoted Al-Sisi to the rank of field marshal, and even the military published its semi-endorsment for him to run for president. All the man had to do was to announce his candidacy, and the rest would be history. But then, nothing. No announcement. Radio silence, except for a Kuwaiti newspaper publishing an interview with him where he announced he was running, before the military spokesperson denied it the next day. As the streets keep filling up with giant posters of Al-Sisi for president by his supporters, the only announcement of someone running for president, so far, has been from Hamdeen Sabahy of all people. The question that is on Al-Sisi’s fans and opponents’ minds is, well, what’s taking so long? Why hasn’t Al-Sisi announced his candidacy yet?
Well, given that I am not a privileged member of the Minister of Defence’s private audience (nor am I an Al-Sisi-head), and those who are seem equally confused, as well; I don’t conclusively know the reason, but it’s not hard to guess. On a personal level, all of Al-Sisi’s options are bad: if he runs for president, then 30 June is completely and officially a coup; if he stays Minister of Defence, people will say that he is the real president anyway and undermine the next president at every turn; if he quits his post, then his fans will cry that he abandoned them and his enemies would immediately call for his trial, if they don’t try to assassinate him or members of his family. He is stuck in the worst possible position, with very little room to manoeuvre, thanks to his insane supporters’ insistence that he is some sort of Messianic figure that will make all of our problems go away.
It is easy to understand Al-Sisi’s appeal to his fanatics. During the 30 plus years of Mubarak rule and the revolution, Egyptians have been plagued with “Leaders” who simply don’t deliver on their promises. Al-Sisi, in contrast, has “delivered” so far: he gave Morsi his 48-hour ultimatum, and then removed him; asked for a mandate to “fight terrorism”, and since then, his interior minister has crushed the Rabaa sit-in and has been “fighting”; vowed to deliver a constitution and safeguard the referendum, and did that as well. Never mind that those promises are nothing compared to the challenges that the next president is supposed to tackle. His supporters have every faith that he will, and will throw this “track record” in your face followed by the question “well, who else in Egypt has delivered what they have promised?”
It’s hard not to see their blind faith in Al-Sisi for the desperation that it masks, and make no mistake, his supporters are that desperate. They are desperate for the “normalcy” and “stability” that they had once upon a time, even at the price of a police state and oppression, and will not listen to anyone who tells them any differently. This is their last hope, their final gambit: for them, if this fails, then all is lost. It’s quite miserable when you think about it, and these are miserable and desperate times, which ultimately lead to miserable and desperate measures, like taking the man that symbolises the only functioning state institution left, and pushing him at the forefront to take on our ever growing tsunami of unfixable problems, while patting him on the back and telling him “You can do it. Now fix this!” It’s the most curious thing, how the most ardent Al-Sisi supporters are the ones who are pushing him down the path of his own, and the military’s, destruction, but then again, these are the same people who want nothing but stability, and yet insist on supporting every action that causes more instability. It fits their profile.
For Al-Sisi to run, it would mean that the military would be directly involved in the ruling of the country. It would no longer be viewed as a “neutral player”, as any military should be. Had any of the Al-Sisi-fanatics bothered to read a single history book on the dangers of having a military politically involved in ruling a country, they would know why this is such a horrific idea that will lead to horrible consequences. It will burden the military with the needs of the country (which they can’t meet, because Egypt and its population are an ever-growing sinkhole of resources), it moves the political struggle to the realm of the generals and the soldiers that serve under them, and it makes the military the target of any and every political opposition in the country it currently has or will garner , when it shouldn’t be. It causes infighting and splinters within an institution that can’t have any, it encourages militancy amongst those who oppose it, and could easily lead to factions and coups. Going down that road is an idea we should never even flirt with, and the military knows this. It starts with a single candidacy announcement, which is why it hasn’t come so far. God save us if it does.