Nine months after Egypt's armed forces overthrew the country's democratically elected president, the leader of that coup has announced that he will seek the presidency in elections next month. But even if army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi receives an overwhelming mandate from voters, he won't be able to restore prosperity and stability to the country if the government continues to repress and imprison political opponents. The United States should use its limited but real influence with Egypt to press Sisi to abandon his siege mentality and open a dialogue with opposition groups.
Superficially, Sisi's resignation as defense minister and announcement that he will run for president seem like a case of "Back to the Future" for Egypt. Before
Yet instead of engaging the opposition and embracing political pluralism, the Egyptian government has pursued a scorched-earth policy. The Muslim Brotherhood has been designated a terrorist organization, Morsi has been charged with criminal offenses, and the government has moved against activists, bloggers, filmmakers and journalists. Last month, 529 defendants were simultaneously sentenced to death in connection with the death of a police officer. In what might be the understatement of the year, a
On Thursday Egypt's interim government approved harsher penalties for "terrorism-related" crimes, ostensibly in response to violent attacks on army and police forces. But such measures won't make Egypt more secure in the long run if the government relentlessly punishes and isolates its critics. And if the country isn't secure, its economy (including the tourist business) will suffer.