In a populist gesture, Egypt's new president, Abdel Fattah Sisi, took to the streets Friday to urge fellow Egyptians to save energy by biking.
Sisi, who assumed office on Sunday, participated in an early-morning cycling event on the outskirts of Cairo. Wearing sporting gear and cycling gloves, he led a group of bicyclists that included Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, the ministers of defense and interior and several media personalities.
Egypt, which heavily subsidizes gasoline, is facing a serious energy crunch. Successive Egyptian governments have been burdened by energy subsidies that will reach $24 billion by the end of the current fiscal year in late June.
Previous ministerial recommendations have called for the gradual abolition of subsidies, but leading politicians refrained from moving forward for fear of triggering civil unrest. According to state media, the current cabinet is planning to cut such subsidies to $14.5 billion next year.
During his first week in office, Sisi, the former defense chief, has sought to demonstrate concern for issues affecting ordinary people – including denunciations of a pervasive Egyptian social problem: sexual harassment and assault.
Earlier this week, a video went viral showing a brutal mob assault on a woman at a Sisi victory celebration. Sisi visited the woman in the hospital and apologized to her and all Egyptian women.
“There should be zero tolerance for such acts,” he said. “People must live freely and safely.”
Sisi, who led the army’s removal of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi amid nationwide protests against the latter's rule last summer, won Egypt’s subsequent presidential election last month with more than 96% of the vote. International monitors said the vote itself was relatively fair, but criticized the repressive political climate surrounding it.
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