The streets of Egypt are again filled with protesters demanding the ouster of another dictator — General ‘Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi. The protests surprised many observers not least because al-Sisi is absolutely ruthless and does not hesitate slaughtering thousands of innocent civilians as he did in August 2013.
He has ruled by arresting tens of thousands of people — one estimate puts the number of political prisoners at 60,000 — and terrorizing the rest into submission. So far this seemed to work but now al-Sisi faces a challenge from an unusual quarter: Mohamed Ali, a contractor living in exile who had previously worked for the regime. Since he is not affiliated with any political party he is seen as having inside knowledge. People are more inclined to respond to his call.
Al-Sisi’s situation is worsened by the fact that military officers loyal to former army chief, General Sami ‘Anan have also voiced support for the protesters. The former army chief is in prison but given his popularity in the army, his loyalists pose a threat to al-Sisi’s rule.
Al-Sisi’s support base is the military. His claim to enjoying mass support and massive “victory” in elections is simply untenable. Every dictator in the Muslim East claims 99.9% support until protests erupt. The 99.9% simply evaporates.
Has al-Sisi reached that moment? It is difficult to say but given the dire economic straits of Egypt, he may have reached the tipping point.