Published in Al Ahram Weekly on 15/11/2017
In recently reaffirming his commitment to the 2014 constitution, President Al-Sisi has definitively turned a page in the modern political history of Egypt, writes Hany Ghoraba
The successful World Youth Forum held in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, starting 4 November for five days, saw also President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi deliver an address on many domestic and international issues. As important as his statements were on the current state of the economy, political turbulence in the region and other matters, one statement stood out to me as the most important of all, which was his reconfirmation of upholding the constitution regarding presidential terms, which are set at two four-year terms, maximum, for each president.
President Al-Sisi put the last nail in the coffin of speculation that he may be tempted to extend presidential terms or alter restrictions established by the constitution. In a patriotic gesture, he reaffirmed his commitment to uphold the constitution and set an example for future political leaders to follow. It is noteworthy to mention that some politicians and media anchors were attempting to propagate the viability of altering the clauses of the constitution to extend presidential terms. If that were to take place, it would have wasted everything that Egyptians fought for since 2011 and all the sacrifices they endured to reach a truly democratic system based on law and a peaceful transition of power. Accordingly, Al-Sisi’s statements end all attempts to revive pre-2011 regimes and political traditions that benefited an inner circle of politicians, economists and media anchors.
Through this patriotic stance, Al-Sisi will join the ranks of select African leaders who placed their nations’ interests above personal gain. An example is the late South Africa leader Nelson Mandela who opted to stay in power for only one presidential term, in order to pave the way to a democratic tradition, thus avoiding the dire fate of many other African nations.
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA REACTION: As per the tradition of most international news outlets recently, the great spectacle of the World Youth Forum was widely neglected despite its resounding success. Apparently, any positive news that surfaces from Egypt fares poorly in the editorial circles of such media outlets. Many reputable news media outlets have dropped their traditional balanced news reporting in favour of selective reporting that relies on sensationalism. Most of these shoddy reports totally ignored the World Youth Forum and the president’s clear statements about the constitution, but instead attempted to spice up news reports with boring and repetitive claims recycling obsolete four-year-old information that features nothing but killings, death and terrorism while ignoring major events taking place in the country.
These reports ignored the elephant in the room. The acknowledgement and pledge to uphold the constitution voted for by an overwhelming majority of Egyptians didn’t attract the attention of international news agencies. Accordingly, they failed to catch one of the most important moments in Egypt’s modern history. A smooth transition of power will be the greatest achievement of Al-Sisi, ending a quagmire in Egyptian politics that marred Egypt’s development for decades. This achievement would crown other achievements, including in the economy, once all mega-projects recently inaugurated are functioning in upcoming years. No longer will Egyptians have to speculate about how long the president will stay in power, or if he will assign a vice president to take the helm after he leaves office.
Should President Al-Sisi fulfil his promise, he will be the first leader in Egyptian history to leave office without any form of coercion, assassination, revolution or through death. Regardless of other achievements seized for the country, whether social, economic, educational or military, cementing a tradition of a democratic transition of power will be Al-Sisi’s true legacy.
Original Post in Al Ahram: