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News Analysis: Huge challenges ahead of Egypt's presidential candidates

English.news.cn   2014-03-27 23:28:55

by Mahmoud Fouly, Wang Lei

CAIRO, March 27 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's ex-military chief Abdel- Fattah al-Sisi announced Wednesday night his bid for presidential elections, which paved the way for a long-awaited campaign. However, the deep-rooted division and ailing economy are challenges for all presidential candidates, even for a strongman military leadership.

The most populous Arab country, beleaguered by problems such as dilapidated economy, violence and protests, mounting terrorism and growing division, might need miracles to be resolved.

Egypt's ailing economy is reflected in a budget deficit of over 12.8 billion U.S. dollars and a drop in foreign currency reserves of 18.9 billion dollars (from 36 billion dollars in January 2011 to 17.1 billion dollars in January 2014).

"I do not work out miracles," Sisi said in his televised speech on Wednesday night, when he officially announced that he decided to quit the military and run for president.

Sisi is tipped as a forerunner in the upcoming presidential elections as he is seen by many Egyptians as "a national hero" after he toppled the Muslim Brotherhood-oriented President Mohamed Morsi.

Egyptian observers say that restoring security and stability is the biggest challenge for the favorite candidate.

"If security and stability are restored, the ailing economy can be boosted," said Gamal Salama, head of political science department at Suez University.

However, security concerns including terrorist attacks and protests by Morsi's supporters are likely to grow up after Sisi's announcement.

Since the military ousted the country's first elected Islamist president in July, terrorist attacks launched by extremist Islamists against the security forces are on the rise across the country, especially in the restive Sinai Peninsula and the capital Cairo.

Improving security is somehow associated with crackdown and security campaigns, and hence with human rights concerns.

A few hours before Sisi's address, the prosecution referred 919 Islamists to criminal court over violence and murder charges. The decision comes a couple of days after a criminal court in southern Egypt sentenced 529 pro-Morsi defendants to death, sparking criticism from domestic and international human rights groups.

"It is a dilemma" that the new president should restrain protests and clashes while avoid criticism over the repression on Islamists, Salama said.

Military strongman Hosni Mubarak were blamed for not capable of restraining Islamist militant and eliminating human rights abuse during his 30-year rule. However, after three years of turbulence in Egypt, the two issues become more challenging for the new president.

Analysts say Egypt is expected to undergo a long time of violence and terrorism.

Sisi cannot work through deep-rooted challenges without public confidence and support, although many people regard him as "savior, " political analyst Makram Mohamed Ahmed said.

In his campaign-style speech, Sisi promised that he would establish "a democratic and modern state." However, his opponents, including Morsi's supporters, revolutionary youth movements and some liberal political parties, are all concerned about the return of the decades-long military rule.

Not only domestic challenges but also regional and international pressures are awaiting the presidential hopeful. Egypt's membership in the African Union was suspended after the ouster of Morsi, and meanwhile the financial aid from Western countries sinks to record low for the cash-stripped Egypt.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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