Popularity of Top Egyptian General Surges

For months after the Egyptian military moved against the Muslim Brotherhood-linked government of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, clashes throughout the country were described by Egyptian media outlets as battles between “Morsi supporters” and “Morsi opponents.” Political lines have apparently sharpened in recent weeks, and Morsi opponents now have someone they quite actively support. The Egypt Independent headlined this one “Security break up fight between pro-Morsy and pro-Sisi students at Cairo University:”

Clashes erupted between pro-Muslim Brotherhood students and students who support Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at Cairo University on Tuesday. Clashes began after the the pro-Brotherhood students chanted against the army and al-Sisi. Campus security intervened to separate the two groups as they engaged in a fist fight and beat each other with belts. Security also closed the doors to the university’s administrative offices to prevent the students from breaking into them like they did on Monday.

The move isn’t a rhetorical quirk. Sisi is riding high:

Galal’s chocolates are just one manifestation of a huge wave of popular support for General Sisi, the intensity of which has not been matched in Egypt since the days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the widely loved autocrat who ruled the country during the 50s and 60s… Many Egyptians laud Sisi for rescuing the country from ex-president Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist whose opponents felt was trying to rob Egypt of its moderate character. After nearly three years of post-revolutionary chaos, they also see Sisi as the restorer of stability – despite a rise in state-sponsored killing since Morsi’s ousting. “There’s this feeling that the country was a little bit lost. There haven’t been any stable institutions for quite a while – and the military was seen as the last bastion of stability and recourse,” said Bassem Sabry, a prominent Egyptian columnist.

Most directly at stake is the Egyptian presidency. Sisi is being called upon supporters to run. He is broadly seen as a unifying figure. The general is being immortalized in candies and jewelry, and people are naming their children after him.

That said, observers have noted that the situation is “complicated and fraught with danger,” as Sisi may risk being seen as having consolidated a military coup. Elements aligned with the Brotherhood and with other Egyptian Islamists have also long criticized the military officials.

In August an Al Jazeera commentator and former Muslim Brotherhood official had already described Sisi’s rise as a “Zionist plot” that had already been sketched by the notoriously anti-Semitic text Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. Sisi himself was accused of being Jewish.

The conspiracy theory does not seem to have significantly dented Sisi’s popularity.

[Photo: Euronews / YouTube ]