Egypt's Sisi under attack on social media after television speech

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 9:50 AM

By Amina Ismail

CAIRO (Reuters) - President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who once enjoyed widespread popular support, has come under withering criticism from Egyptians on social media after delivering a long televised speech on Wednesday.

Signs are growing that the former army chief, who seized power in 2013, is losing popularity, though there are no clear indications his rule is under threat. Egyptian media, which once showered him with praise, have been critical lately.

During his address on his vision for the future, Sisi seemed unsure of himself, at times delivering a barrage of random sentences.

One Egyptian historian, Khaled Fahmy, compared Sisi to the late, eccentric Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi when he delivered a speech threatening to hunt down opponents in every corner of Libya as rebels challenged his rule.

"Sisi's speech is a historic speech in all ways," he wrote on his Facebook page, suggesting the Egyptian president is on the defensive.

Sisi toppled President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.

Security forces then shot dead hundreds of Mursi supporters and imprisoned thousands of others in a fierce crackdown.

Less than a year later, Egyptians who opposed the Brotherhood and regarded Sisi as a decisive leader who could bring stability, elected him president.

He has unveiled mega infrastructure projects he promised would turn around the economy but frustrations are growing on the street.

Sisi often spoke in an aggressive tone in the speech, wagging his finger while providing few details on how he planned to improve life for Egyptians.

"Don't listen to anyone except me," said Sisi. "I am speaking in all seriousness. I don't lie or go around in circles and I don't have any interest except my country."

Sisi asked Egyptians to donate a pound every morning toward tackling Egypt's debt problem, and then said he would sell himself if he could to ease the burden.

"I swear to God almighty, if I could be sold I would sell myself," he said.

Shortly after the speech, Ahmed Ghanem, an Egyptian living in the United States, took the leader at his words and listed Sisi on online auction site eBay.

"For sale: Field Marshal, Philosopher with a military background in good shape," said the advertisement. Within hours the bids reached $100,000 dollars, before it was taken down.

Several Egyptians interviewed by Reuters said they could not care less about the speech.

"Since he took power he has been talking and nothing has changed," said shop owner Mohamed Nabil, 32. "People are about to explode again and he (Sisi) feels that his throne is shaky."

(Editing by Michael Georgy and Katharine Houreld)