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Egypt’s Sisi vows continued development in new term

Egyptian Presidency/Handout via Reuters
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi reacts as he meets children after his swearing-in ceremony for his third term in the New Administrative Capital in the east of Cairo on April 2, 2024

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi was sworn in for his third term on Tuesday in the country’s new capital, the largest of the mega-projects that have come to symbolise his rule while stretching the country’s finances.

Speaking at the new parliament building, Sisi highlighted the challenges Egypt withstood in recent years while promising continued development, which many Egyptians say they feel excluded from.

“The past few years have shown that the path of nation-building is not paved with roses between terrorist attempts at home, sudden global crises abroad, fierce wars around us,” Sisi told lawmakers and religious, government and military officials.

Sisi swept to victory in an election last December with 89.6 percent of the vote and no serious challengers.

As the war raged in neighbouring Gaza his message of stability and security resonated with some voters, but many, preoccupied with economic hardships, expressed indifference about the election, saying the result was a foregone conclusion.

Sisi’s term runs to 2030, following constitutional amendments that extended presidential terms to six years and allowed him to stand for a third election.

In his speech, Sisi promised increased spending on programmes targeting the poor and engaging the private sector in line with commitments that helped secure last month’s expanded $8 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Since Sisi became president in 2014, Egypt has embarked on an infrastructure splurge spearheaded by the military, which he says is essential for economic development and to accommodate a population that has grown by 6 million since hitting the 100 million mark four years ago.

The $58 billion New Administrative Capital in the desert east of Cairo is the largest of the mega projects, which also include an expansion of the Suez Canal, extensive road building and other new cities.

Critics blame such projects for contributing to Egypt’s economic woes, saying they divert resources away from more urgent needs and increase Egypt’s debt burden.

In his inauguration speech, Sisi promised investment in several sectors, including energy, as well as rationalised public spending, and committed to continuing to build new cities.

Former Egyptian presidential hopeful Ahmed Tantawy said the speech was typical in repeating promises of a “new republic” but offering no real solutions.

“We strongly demand transparency and frankness with the great Egyptian people… who are struggling under debt, poverty, human rights deteriorating record,” Tantawy told Reuters.

Though economic troubles threatened Egypt’s stability, its global position has been bolstered by the Gaza crisis, in which it has served as the main conduit for aid and an initiator of ceasefire talks.