Egypt is all set to hold a presidential poll on 26 and 27 May, almost a year after former leader Mohamed Morsi was overthrown on 3 July, 2013.
Only two candidates were submitted to the Supreme Election Committee, Hamdeen Sabahi and military strongman Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and the latter is expected to win this year.
Former Minister of Defense, Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces and Minister of Defense since August 2012, Sisi earned, in a very short period of time, the support of the anti-Islamist public as well as the members of the army that toppled Morsi’s government.
In December 2013, he was named the Person of the Year in Time magazine's annual reader poll with the writer stating that "Sisi's success reflected the genuine popularity of a man who led what was essentially a military coup in July against the democratically elected government of then President Mohammed Morsi.".
However, despite Sisi’s immense popularity, his election would – in so many ways – go against the principles that formed the basis of the 2011 Egyptian revolution that marked the end of a 30-year-old tyrannical regime under Hosni Mubarak – a former military commander.
There would always be the fear of going back to the old ways and days of dictatorship.
Even if Sabahi is elected, there is no guarantee he would be able to repair the damage done in the past couple of years following the Arab Spring.
The bottom line is; Egypt needs to be fixed. The country has a whole set of challenges that are more important than the nature of the prospective leadership.
1- Violence against women:
Egypt was found to be the worst country to be a woman in – two ranks lower than Saudi Arabia, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation 2013 poll.
Egyptian columnist and feminist Mona Eltahawy told The Independent last year that “we removed the Mubarak from our presidential palace but we still have to remove the Mubarak who lives in our minds and in our bedrooms.
2- Sectarian/religious issues:
Clashes between Salafist Sunni sheikhs, Shi’ites, and Christians became frequent under Morsi’s government.
Last year in June, Dozens of people were killed in sectarian mob attacks. 3,000 people reportedly attacked Shi’ites’ houses in a village near Cairo.
Since the ouster of Mr. Mubarak in February 2011, a growing number of Coptic Orthodox Christians left Egypt, fearing discrimination by an Islamist-controlled government.
People died and suffered injuries during violent clashes at the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in central Cairo last April after a funeral service for four Egyptian Christians killed in sectarian violence with extremists.
3- Depressing economy:
Coptic Christians are also some of the biggest business providers in Egypt and since they are leaving in huge numbers, the country is going to suffer economic turmoil.
Egypt is suffering its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression (1930s), Galal Amin, professor of economics at the American University in Cairo, and Samir Radwan, a former finance minister, said in separate interviews with The Guardian last year.
It is a nation that fundamentally depends on tourism and can only experience economic growth if the future leaders bring political stability back to the country.
4- Lack of freedom of speech:
Earlier this year, human rights organization Amnesty International called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately drop the charges against three journalists from Al Jazeera English, who were accused of assisting and belonging to terrorist and/or banned organizations.
“Journalists cannot operate freely in a climate of fear. The latest development is a brazen attempt to stifle independent reporting in Egypt. In the lead up to elections, a free press is essential,” said Secretary General of Amnesty International Salil Shetty.
5- Fears of dictatorship:
Morsi was the country’s first democratically elected president. However, he turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing for the revolutionaries who ousted Mubarak.
Therefore, the new government of Egypt needs to keep its policies as such that they do not – in any way – take the country back to the days of dictatorship.
In order to achieve that purpose, decisions like mass death sentences for people without trial, for instance, ought to be withdrawn immediately.
In March, 529 people were sentenced to death for carrying out attacks during last year’s clashes and the murder of a police officer.
Human rights advocates called the ruling "a disaster" and "a scandal" for Egypt.
But on April 28th, the same judge condemned another 683 people to the gallows in a separate case. Although many think that these mass executions may not be carried out, such cases are tarnishing the already-tainted image of Egypt in the international community.
This has to change.