Sisi sworn in for second term as Egyptian president

Egypt’s leader takes oath of office amid crackdown on his opponents

 Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks after he was sworn in for a second presidential term, in Cairo. Photograph: Presidency of Egypt/EPA

Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks after he was sworn in for a second presidential term, in Cairo. Photograph: Presidency of Egypt/EPA

a
 

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in for a second term as Egyptian president on Saturday amid a crackdown on his opponents, after a landslide victory in a March election in which all serious opponents had withdrawn.

Egyptian air force fighter planes drew the Egyptian flag across the sky in red, white and black smoke and helicopters buzzed over the former military chief’s motorcade as he approached parliament early on Saturday.

“I assure you that accepting the other and creating common spaces between us will be my biggest concern to achieve consensus, social peace and real political development in addition to our economic development,” Sisi said in a speech after he took the oath. The speech was followed by a 21-gun salute in celebration, as politicians clapped and cheered.

“I will not exclude anyone from this common space, except those who chose violence, terrorism and extremist thought as a way to impose their will,” Sisi said during the ceremony, which was broadcast live on television.

Sisi has overseen a crackdown on political opponents and an increasingly bloody battle with Islamic State insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula during his first term. He has also struggled to revive the Egyptian economy while pushing through tough IMF-backed austerity measures tied to a $12 billion loan programme.

His supporters say his harsh measures are needed to protect the state from the turmoil unleashed since protests toppled long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

His critics say he has stifled the prospect of democracy in the country, while the economic reforms, which include subsidy cuts and tax hikes, have pushed up prices and eroded his popularity.

A rise in fares on the Cairo metro last month ignited a rare display of public anger, and more subsidy cuts are on the way, including in fuel and electricity.

Sisi (63), a former intelligence chief and defence minister, led the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood – Egypt’s first freely-elected president – after protests against Morsi’s rule in 2013. Sisi was elected to his first four-year term as president a year later.

Election turnout

In March’s election, Sisi won 97 per cent of the vote, but turnout was just 41 per cent. The election featured only one other candidate, himself an ardent Sisi supporter, after all serious opposition contenders halted their campaigns in January.

The main opposition challenger was arrested and his campaign manager beaten up. Other hopefuls also pulled out due to what they said was intimidation.

Since the election, dozens of mostly secular or socialist Sisi critics have been arrested and are being investigated on charges that include spreading fake news and belonging to illegal or terrorist organisations.

Rights groups say Sisi has muzzled political opponents, activists and critical media, while courts have passed death sentences for hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The recent wave of arrests has drawn criticism from the EU, US vice-president Mike Pence and international rights organisations. – Reuters

a