Egyptian General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s decision to run for president comes as the United States is pushing Cairo to improve its treatment of journalists and political opponents. The Obama administration is trying to balance support for Egyptian democracy with security concerns in Saudi Arabia in an awkward position. The former general’s candidacy has been expected for months. So U.S. officials say they are focusing now on the freedom of Egypt’s electoral process. Deputy State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf. “It is up to the people of Egypt to determine their future. And we have also repeatedly said that, as the people of Egypt go to the polls to do that, it must be in a climate that’s free from intimidation where people feel they can vote for and support whatever party and whatever candidate they want to. And we have raised concerns with the interim Egyptian government about the ability for citizens to freely express their opinions,” said Harf.
Especially as most of the recent U.S. human rights concerns followed el-Sissi’s toppling of Egypt’s first democratically-elected government – leaving Washington in what former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli calls an awkward position.
“The good side: they’re running things. The bad side: they’re repressing a lot of dissent. And not necessarily disloyal dissent but any dissent. That bothers President Obama and his administration. It really does,” said Ereli.