Since a July 2013 military coup, Egypt has sought to reassert state authority undermined by the 2011 uprising at the expense of political inclusion, especially of the Muslim Brotherhood. The resulting polarisation has encouraged mounting political violence from the Islamic State (ISIS) and other violent groups, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula where a low-level insurgency has raged. In the Nile Valley, in 2017, ISIS has targeted the Coptic Christian minority, while al-Qaeda affiliates and other groups tied to the Brotherhood have targeted security forces. Crisis Group is urging the government to be more inclusive and address widespread violations of human and political rights, especially ahead of presidential elections scheduled for May 2018, to better address security and economic challenges.

CrisisWatch Egypt

Unchanged Situation

Presidential election campaign kicked off, with President Sisi set to win third term in December; Cairo allowed entry of several groups of wounded Palestinians and dual nationals from Gaza Strip.

Sisi bound for re-election having sidelined all serious contenders. Election authority 8 Nov announced final four candidates in 10-12 Dec presidential election, and electoral campaign started 9 Nov. Amid ongoing restrictions on free speech, Sisi’s re-election for third term is virtually guaranteed even as country grapples with record inflation and massive debt. Prominent presidential hopeful Ahmed Tantawi, who in Oct withdrew his presidential bid after failing to gather necessary endorsements to run, 28 Nov faced trial on charges of “circulating election-related papers without official authorisation”.

Some wounded Palestinians and foreign passport holders left Gaza Strip for Egypt. Cairo 1 Nov for first time allowed 76 wounded Palestinians and 335 dual nationals stranded in Gaza Strip to pass through Rafah border crossing. Evacuations in following weeks continued at slow pace amid difficult security situation, and truck carrying fuel 15 Nov crossed from Egypt into Gaza for first time since start of Israel’s war with Hamas. Pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas 24-30 Nov allowed larger amounts of fuel and humanitarian aid to reach Gaza (see Israel/Palestine). Foreign ministry 14 Nov once again rejected Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s suggestion that Palestinians leave Gaza, slamming it as “irresponsible” and violation of international law.

International donors offered fresh support amid new pressures arising from Gaza. With war in Gaza putting new strain on Egypt’s economy, notably threatening tourism industry and natural gas imports, ratings agency Fitch 3 Nov downgraded Egypt’s sovereign rating from B to B-, while country’s main international partners appeared set to offer fresh credit. Cairo 14 Nov reported Qatar was ready to invest $1.5bn in Egypt’s industrial sector in 2024. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen 18 Nov visited Egypt, reportedly discussed possibility of enhanced partnership on migration and economic cooperation with Sisi.

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