Egypt's Durable Misery

Why Sisi's Regime Is Stable

A riot police officer stands guard outside a police academy, where ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi's second trial session was due to take place, on the outskirts of Cairo, January 8, 2014. Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters

The past two years have been the most violent and repressive in Egypt’s contemporary history. Ever since the country’s military responded to mass protests by ousting the country’s first elected president, the Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated Mohamed Morsi, in July 2013, at least 1,800 civilians and 700 security personnel have been killed, tens of thousands have been imprisoned, and severe restrictions have been placed on media, civil society, and protest activity. And this sorry story is set to worsen. Following the assassination of Egypt’s prosecutor general on June 29, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi blamed the Brotherhood and vowed an ever-harsher crackdown on the group, including tougher laws to ensure that Muslim Brothers on death row are executed sooner. In response, the Brotherhood endorsed the sudden upsurge in attacks on infrastructure, including electricity towers. And jihadists affiliated with the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS) launched a new round of attacks, including the July 1 bombings in North Sinai that killed dozens of troops and the recent attack on the Italian consulate in Cairo.

Yet despite this bleak security outlook, Egypt is more politically stable than it’s been in years. Unlike the divided regimes that collapsed in the face of mass protests in January 2011 and June 2013, the Sisi regime is internally unified. And the various state institutions and civil groups that constitute the regime will likely remain tightly aligned for one basic reason: they view the Muslim Brotherhood as a significant threat to their respective interests and thus see the regime’s crackdown on the organization as essential to their own survival. Moreover, as many and perhaps most Egyptians see it, the Sisi regime’s internal unity is the one thing preventing the country from descending into the chaotic statelessness that has overtaken other Arab Spring countries, and they strongly prefer even a repressive and somewhat inept regime to what they see as a far worse alternative. So even as Egypt’s domestic security becomes more tenuous, the status quo is sustainable,

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