Four years have gone by since the famous brave and violent January 25th, 2011, the day that represents the desire for change on behalf of Egyptian population. This day takes the name of “Egyptian revolution” and bears the image of the Egyptians who, with the slogan “We want the fall of the regime”, head towards the Tharir Square with the goal to expel Mubarak from the regime. But, what kind of politician was Hosni Mubarak?

“A politician without charisma and social skills”, says Robert Springborg, professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School. In his book, published in 1989, Mubarak’s Egypt: Fragmentation of the Political Order, he states: “Mubarak gives the impression of being cut off from population sentiments. He does not read public opinion well and has difficulty in articulating and encapsulating popular desires in appropriate words and actions”. This statement seems to claim inability of the ex-President to achieve an excellent campaign without Samy Abdel Aziz, National Democratic Party Member and advertising executive, who sought to deliberately change the established image of Mubarak during his years of presidency. Mubarak promised his umma justice and several reforms that Egyptians have never seen. An example was the campaign in 2004, when the National Democratic Party launched the slogan “New thinking and reform priorities”, which saw its visual representation on billboards depicting different “kinds” of Egyptian people: veiled and unveiled women, old people and children, men in modern and traditional clothes, branding the NPA as the legitimate representative of Egyptians. However, all these images and slogans presented a “democratic façade” behind which hid an unchanging authoritarian regime. The answer of his population was the birth of different revolutionary movements, such as Kyfaya, born in 2004 as a counter-response to hereditary succession to regime, and a Facebook page “We are all Khaled Saeed”, a young boy victim of police brutality who later became the symbol of the revolution. In a short time, the Egyptian revolution became global and represented Mubarak as a cruel and corrupted dictator. After 18 days of protests which caused several dead and wounded, as well as brought to light the brutality and violence, Gamal Mubarak, the President’s son and most likely successor since the beginning of the protests, left the National Democratic Party and fled abroad, while his father decided to resign definitively on February 11th, 2011. This was a joyous moment for the Egyptian umma, but it was still too early to claim victory. After a period of transition, whose leading role was the Armed Forces, on June 24th, 2012, Egypt had a new President which was considered the “achieved” dream of the Egyptians. He was Mohamed Morsi, member of the Freedom and Justice Party, and the fifth President in Egyptian history.

The first day of his regime, Morsi symbolically swore in the Tharir Square: “Let’s say to the world: Egypt is here; revolutionaries are here; Egyptians are here. I talk to all population, to Egyptian Muslims, to Egyptian Copts, to the citizens in and out of Egypt”. But, truthfully, how different was Morsi from Mubarak? The “new” Egyptian President ruled without carrying out substantial changes compared to the past. Many characters of the old regime were recovered; the military powers were not undermined. Furthermore, there was no actual press freedom. However, Egyptians reacted by going back on the streets. Egypt seemed to be very far from stability. After only a few months, Morsi’s regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, representing his support, neither undertook a proper policy of democratic reforms, nor gave right answers to the request for social justice of the population. Those had been two fundamental requests of the revolution that occurred on January 25th, 2011. In a nutshell, the laic, pseudo-democratic Mubarak regime was substituted, likewise, by a pseudo-democratic regime with an Islamic nature. For these reasons, alarmed citizens made the decision to go back on the streets and protest again but, this time, against Morsi’s regime. Indeed, thanks to the previous experience during Mubarak’s regime, Egyptian population appeared to be alert, critical, combative and more attentive to public life. Egyptians seemed to have learned a valuable lesson after the events occurred in the Tharir Square. They would never have accepted another authoritarian regime.

A new revolution was going to start. In fact, a great rally was organized on June 30th, 2013. That day marked Morsi’s removal from the government. It was exactly Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, former Head of Armed Forces, the “hero” who deposed Morsi. If, in the beginning, all the Egyptians hated el-Sisi because he was considered to be an “undercover” member of the Muslim Brotherhood, (infiltrator Islamist and head of the army), today, he is the new Egyptian President. Suddenly, he became the hero for all Egyptians who started to hang his picture on the walls of the streets and shops, as well as, to venerate his legendary and emblematic image. After his Presidential election on June 8th, 2014, el-Sisi stated to be ready to lead Egypt towards a new phase, which would allow a complete rebirth of the country both on the national and international level. “This is a critical moment in the history of our place which has never attended a handing over between two Presidents. Egypt will have a key role again, in order to guarantee stability in the total region”. Furthermore, during his oath in front of his citizens, he mentioned the two crucial revolutions occurred on January 25th, 2011 and on June 30th, 2013. He explained that it was time for Egyptians to reap the rewards of their protests because the success of the revolution would have depended on the concreteness of their requests and targets. Nowadays, Egyptians wonder if el-Sisi’s words are true or not.

If Mubarak was considered a dictator and Morsi an “illusionist”, how could Egyptian population consider el-Sisi? A true or a false hero? Only his actions could give the country explicit statements.

ERICA BALSANO

Master’s degree in Languages and Cultures for International Communication and Cooperation (University of Milan)