Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s president, could not ask for a better mouthpiece than Khairy Ramadan, a talk-show host. When activists started a Twitter campaign to mock the president, Mr Ramadan proposed banning the social network. And like Mr Sisi he calls the revolution of 2011, when the previous strongman, Hosni Mubarak, was overthrown, a foreign plot. But during his show on February 18th, Mr Ramadan talked of a police colonel who earns 4,600 pounds ($261) per month. To supplement his income, the colonel’s wife sought work as a cleaner. Mr Ramadan, who confessed to having a “soft spot” for the notoriously brutal cops, wondered why they were paid so little. He can now ask them directly. Apparently seen as disrespectful, on March 3rd he was arrested.
Later this month Egyptians will go to the polls to re-elect Mr Sisi. The outcome is all but certain. Serious challengers were arrested or coerced into dropping their bids. His sole opponent, Moussa Mustafa Moussa, was dragooned into service hours before the registration deadline to avoid the embarrassment of a one-man race. Mr Moussa refuses to take part in a televised debate, calling it an unacceptable “challenge” to the president.
Yet on the eve of his victory, Mr Sisi seems fearful rather than confident. Egyptians whisper about palace intrigues, such as the sacking of Khaled Fawzy, the intelligence chief, who has not been seen since January. The reasons for his dismissal and apparent detention are unclear. Mr Sisi’s tone has turned dark, with threats and talk of conspiracies. He often refers to the “forces of evil” arrayed against Egypt.