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Opinion: Egypt’s Presidential Hotseat | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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People walk in front of an election campaign poster of presidential candidate and Egypt’s former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along a highway in downtown Cairo May 16, 2014.

According to a recent feature published by Egypt’s independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, the president’s seat may not be as comfortable as some may think. Perhaps what Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said about the position being “hellish” is a true expression of the risks facing the forthcoming president.

According to the newspaper, ruling Egypt has its ups and downs. The report starts with Muhammad Ali Pasha, the founder of the modern state of Egypt, who was said to have gone mad at the end of his life, experiencing visions and hallucinations. He was succeeded by his son, Ibrahim Pasha, who, in turn, was succeeded by his son, Abbas I, who was assassinated by two of his slaves.

Other rulers from the Muhammad Ali dynasty include Ismai’l Pasha, known as The Magnificent, who was exiled, and King Farouk, who renounced power in July 1952, when the Free Officers Movement abolished the monarchy. Gamal Abdel Nasser perished after a short illness amid unsubstantiated claims that he was poisoned. His successor, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated during a military parade on October 6, 1981. On February 11, 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned following a popular uprising only to be succeeded by Mohamed Mursi who, in turn, was ousted from power in July 2013.

Ruling Egypt is a risky task, particularly during this mad period of regional civil wars and security tensions. On top of that, there are millions of unemployed Egyptians living below the poverty line.—not to mention the water crisis, the porous borders with Libya and the Gaza Strip, and territorial disputes with Sudan.

The Egyptian government has estimated that, as of the first quarter of 2014, 13.4 percent of Egyptians were unemployed; 70 percent of those were between 15 and 29 years old. According to the Central Bank of Egypt, the country’s foreign debt has risen by 25.7 per cent, reaching 43.2 billion US dollars.

Egypt also faces security challenges, whether from the Muslim Brotherhood “gangs” who claim the right to hold power or the terrorist groups in the Sinai Peninsula—not to mention the Left-wing youth groups some say are seeking to disrupt attempts to build a legitimate state.

Egypt has paid a high price politically, economically and in terms of security. This is because Egypt is an important Arab state with a unique role in the region. If Egypt does not recover, it is unlikely that the Arab world will ever recover.

The forthcoming presidential elections in Egypt will mark a significant moment in history. If the next president—who will surely be Sisi, unless his rival, Hamdeen Sabahy, pulls off a miracle—manages to get Egypt out of the dark tunnel, he will win the hearts of all Egyptians and Arabs.