The best way to think about Sisi’s new term, his second, is as an extension of his first. Because of strong support within most state institutions for the incumbent, there was no doubt either inside or outside Egypt that he would remain president. Few expect any policy resets, like a call to open up space in civil society or developing larger social security nets for the country’s most vulnerable. The priorities for Sisi’s second term remain the same as the first: the economy and security.
A second term for Sisi also means he will begin to seriously consider who will follow him. He could groom a successor—who that would be is anyone’s guess at the moment. Or he could accept that someone he does not support could take the reins. That’s also rather difficult to imagine, given that the current administration has narrowed the space in Egypt for creating a genuine political alternative. Sisi may also just run for a third term. That would require an amendment to the constitution, which limits presidents to two terms; that, in turn, would require a public referendum.
As things stand now, Sisi would seem to have sufficient support from Egypt’s business elite, along with a substantial proportion of the networks of former President Hosni Mubarak. The opposition to Sisi beyond the state apparatus is also too weak to oppose such a move. Opposition from different actors such as disaffected former supporters, pro-revolutionary activists and political groups, and pro-Muslim Brotherhood stalwarts, does exist. But it is an open question as to whether they can muster enough support to thwart any move to change the constitution.
Yet, Sisi shouldn’t be too comfortable. The low voter turnout, despite his vigorous attempts to mobilize voters, suggested a significant level of public apathy. That should concern Cairo. In the medium to long term, such apathy can disrupt a healthy political system. Dissent exists in any political environment—but for it to be absorbed, it requires channels of political expression. If those avenues don’t exist, the consequences can be far more uncontrollable.
Looking abroad, there are certainly foreign-policy issues that should trouble the Sisi regime, including the Libyan quagmire, and the construction of the Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia, which is due to be completed later this year and could have serious consequences for Egypt’s access to Nile waters. Fortunately for Sisi, President Donald Trump has supported him, and that’s unlikely to change—even though there are some outstanding issues that need addressing. In particular, Washington is unimpressed with Egypt’s friendly relationship with North Korea. The Trump administration also wants to see Sisi lift its restrictions on foreign NGOs in Egypt, which has led to several American NGO workers being convicted in Egyptian courts.