Egypt: With Trump’s Help, Egypt Holds a Farcical Election | The New Yorker

From modern downtown bookstores to dusty street-corner bookstands where venders peddle Xeroxed copies of international best-sellers, one new release has proved popular this winter in Cairo: translated copies of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” Ahmed, a thirty-one-year-old bookseller in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, told me that Egyptian readers found the bluntness of America’s new President entertaining. “Trump is funny,” Ahmed said, declining to give his last name. “He says what he thinks.” For Egypt’s democracy and human-rights activists, Trump is something far different: an enabler of repression who has embraced Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as he carries out the most repressive crackdown in the country in decades. Three days after taking office, Trump phoned Sisi and effusively pledged his support for the authoritarian ruler. When Sisi visited Washington last spring, Trump warmly welcomed him to the White House, reversing an Obama Administration policy of declining to meet the former general because of his government’s sweeping human-rights abuses.

Five years ago, Sisi seized power and jailed the country’s democratically elected President in a popularly backed military coup that led to the massacre of thousands of supporters of the now banned Muslim Brotherhood. Under Sisi, the government has arrested at least sixty thousand people, handed down hundreds of preliminary death sentences, and tried thousands of civilians in military courts, according to human-rights groups. Torture, including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, and sometimes rape, has been systematically employed. After a pair of church bombings by the Islamic State killed forty-seven people last April, Sisi declared a nationwide state of emergency that gave the government sweeping powers to arrest people, seize assets, and censor the media.

Trump has made no mention of the repression, called Sisi a “fantastic guy,” and even complimented the Egyptian leader on his shoes. Sisi, in turn, has praised Trump for being “a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible.” Trump’s embrace of Sisi is not unusual: he has praised authoritarian leaders around the world, but his backing of autocratic regimes is perhaps nowhere more visible than in Egypt.

This week, Egyptians went to the polls in a three-day Presidential election that observers described as a farce. Sisi ran against one obscure opponent, Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who is a Sisi supporter himself. Three former high-ranking military leaders who had announced that they would challenge Sisi were arrested or forced out of the race. The President then proclaimed his disappointment  that other “distinguished people” were not challenging him. “We are not ready, isn’t it a shame,” Sisi said on national television.

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