Sisi builds his regime

Sisi builds his regime

So, how much revolutionary change actually happened in Egypt between 2011 and today?  Everyone is asking this question, usually with a roll of the eyes that suggests the answer is ‘very little’ and, quite possibly, what did happen was for the worse.

But is the Sisi regime just the Mubarak regime with a new face?  The always terrific Mada Masr has an interview with Joshua Stacher, an assistant professor at Kent State University, that tries to answer this question.  Stacher meanders a bit but the short version is, no, there is not a perfect overlap between Sisi and Mubarak and a lot of the craziness you’re seeing now — the fanatical propaganda, ridiculous 98.1% voter approval, the personality cult, the wide-ranging repression, the tremendous use of violence — is a sign of Sisi trying to build his regime and establish the ground rules.

Here, to me, is the most valuable part of the interview but you can read the whole thing at Mada Masr:

Everyone is going to say this is the old NDP and these are the days of Mubarak, when it is much more violent, much narrower, [just] with some of the same [old] faces.

This is very different than the Mubarak regime, which was much more robust. At the moment this is a very insecure regime, or regime in formation. This is why all dissent — big and small — has to be violently put down. I believe that the violence that we see now against protesters and dissent in general is a deliberate state policy that they need to help construct this new regime.

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So basically, the reason you can have an authoritarian regime [in the Mubarak years] that nobody likes that isn’t all that violent, but repressive, is because the norms are largely set. Everybody knows how to interact with the state when they bump into it. The Sisi regime in formation is so scared of any dissent because it doesn’t have this wide base with multiple constituencies. It’s popular, but that’s not organized political capital. The popularity is a way to buy time so they can build the regime. We’re going to see incredible violence while this regime is in formation. The people that are governing the state are actually far more brittle and weaker than compared to the Mubarak years.

If you think of the Egyptian state as an onion, what we’ve watched over the past three years is layers being peeled off that onion, and we’re getting down to the core of what drives the system.

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