On Saturday, President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt made a motorcade entrance that provoked anger and criticism in Egyptians. The cars where part of his motorcade and were carrying President Sisi and some other officials as they were visiting projects in 6 October City, a suburb of Cairo. The cars rode in on a red carpet that became the focus of the heavy critic.
The critique centered around the apparent extravagance of the move, compounded by the glaring coincidence that President Sisi was making a speech on the need to cut government subsidies, he announced new spending cuts on water and electricity subsidies and exhorted Egyptians to be more frugal due to economic hardships and called on them to refrain from complaining about said measures.
The people honed in on what they perceived and proclaimed as the hypocrisy of it all, several commentators, media personalities and activists who seemed to be speaking the mind of the wider public queried the fact that the President Sisi’s motorcade made its way down a red-carpeted road to give a speech where he then warned that the state could not continue subsidizing water and electricity bills for low income families.
Haytham Muhammadayn, a member of the Revolutionary Socialist movement, posted a screenshot on Facebook with the comment: “Sisi is trampling on the people’s money.”
Youssef al-Husseini, a presenter on the private ON TV, followed suit with a question: “How could you reach such a level of hypocrisy by rolling out red carpets on the streets for the president’s motorcade? Could we not have spent the money on buying duvets for people freezing in the cold?”
Popular talk show host Lamees El-Hadidi seemed almost incredulous; “Walking? No problem. On a bike? That’s ok too. But by car?” That’s a bit much. She called on the president’s staff to stop wasting his money and be a bit more careful not to taint his good reputation. Ibrahim Eissa called the whole situation a ‘major political disappointment’. Social media also added on its own special veneer and brand of sarcastic commentary.
The military which said that the carpet was meant to give joy to the Egyptian people, had the deputy head of its moral affairs department, Beig Ihab al-Qahwaji, stating that the carpet was inexpensive, made of light cloth and had been used for over three years.
He told CBC TV on Sunday; “the carpet is not expensive, and it was used before and will be used in other coming ceremonies,” continuing, “we want to give the impression that Egypt is moving in the right direction, and we want to present a bit of joy to our people”.
We think cheaper light, water and more actions that show a connection with the people will more likely achieve the aim of bringing joy, but maybe all citizens just dream of their President riding down on a red carpet and avoiding all that dirt on the car tires, it’s possible, isn’t it?