Seven years after massive street protests in Cairo that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak and galvanized “Arab Spring” revolts across the region, Egypt’s field of hopefuls in its presidential election has essentially dwindled to one: President Abdel Fattah Sisi. And for supporters of the former field marshal, that’s a bit embarrassing: Even if Sisi scores a near-unanimous victory at the ballot box, as he did in a previous vote, many in his camp would like him to have at least a symbolic opponent. But critics say it is the president’s backers who have engineered a string of abrupt bowings-out by potential rivals.
With the nationwide vote set for late March, Egypt is in familiar territory: furiously denying claims by democracy advocates, and a prominent U.S. senator, that the country has lurched backward into repression that is reminiscent of Mubarak’s three decades of harsh rule.
Those accusations would be bolstered if the vote is little more than a rubber-stamp referendum on the rule of Sisi, 63, who has received little in the way of pushback from the Trump administration over accusations of widespread human rights abuses.