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Egypt, The New Canal, And Popcorn Politics

SBy Nervana Mahmoud.    Adapted from an article first published in ahramonline  GUESTSM2

The New Suez Canal has been inaugurated amidst controversial scenes ranging from the expression of public joy, to mocking, scepticism, and endless articles questioning its economic worth.

The right time to voice concerns should have been August 2014. Exactly a year ago, Egyptian authorities announced that Egyptian pound-denominated Suez Canal certificates would be available locally and abroad.

If the project’s sceptics were not convinced about the feasibility of the government-projected gains from the certificates at the end of their five-year maturity period, why did they not step up their campaign to stop the fundraising?

Some may assume the lack of opposition was a result of the fear of oppression by the Egyptian authorities. However, opponents had an array of social media possibilities to explore if they were serious about trying to stop the project.

The only vocal opponents of the project were the Muslim Brotherhood, but it was part of their hyped approach to post-Morsi’s Egypt and not a rational stand that would attract Egypt’s apolitical public. Before the inauguration of the New Canal few people bothered to review the project’s advantages/disadvantages, a trend that was reversed only after completion of the project, when a huge number of opinion pieces saturated the media, questioning the project’s alleged benefits.

There are a few possible reasons that could explain the baffling initial apathy toward the project and the late fervour. Either those opposed to the project were not truly serious about stopping it, or they assumed the project would not be completed; hence, in their view, it was pointless to waste energy opposing it.

That is likely the real reason; it is a kind of popcorn approach to politics, a quiet wait-and-see initial phase, followed by an over-excited rant against the project, once finalized. This approach is cana 2fundamentally flawed as it indicates how the anti-Al-Sisi elite are politically lazy and incapable of forward thinking.

Regardless, the whole matter reflects why the Egyptian public does not take opponents of Al-Sisi’s leadership seriously. It is unfortunate that opponents of the project have mistimed their moves, and opted for a late show of discontent.

It is no good for an average Egyptian who invested his or her savings in the Suez Canal project to hear scepticism about the project, a year down the line. The idea of the public turning against Al-Sisi after the inauguration of the canal is ludicrous. Would the public ignore the visual impact of the new two-way canal, and consider instead belated articles drumming doom and gloom? Unlikely.

The campaign against the Suez Canal may have raised good questions about the project, and whether it will double revenues in five years as projected. However, its mistiming is its biggest failure. A late alarm button is a failed alarm system. A change in Egypt’s political and economic discourse needs a proactive opposition, not a few late, sarcastic voices on social media.



If chess is a good metaphor to describe political scenes, Egypt’s dynamics can be described as two simultaneous games. One is a serious chess game by Al-Sisi, initiating various gambits to achieve some incremental gain.

The other, however, is a parody chess game played by his opponents; full of noise, rants, and dubious gambits that aim only to attract attention, but fail to change anything. The Egyptian president got his canal, his legacy, and a crucial nod of approval from his Gulf allies, in addition to the potential economic gain.

The publicity accorded to the project, even if negative, is not necessarily bad news for him; he cemented the perception of the reliability of his leadership. His opponents, on the other hand, got nothing.

The problem in Egypt is not Al-Sisi and his potentially “dubious” grandiose projects, but in his opponents’ spectacular mediocrity that consistently fails to convince Egyptians that they are a better alternative.

Nervana Mahmoud is a Doctor, Commentator and Writer on Middle East Issues. You can follow her on twitter @Nervana_1


5 Comments on "Egypt, The New Canal, And Popcorn Politics"

  1. Mahatmacoatmabag | 12th August 2015 at 11:36 am | Reply

    Nervana Mahmoud good luck with new Suez Canal. I crossed the old one in 1973 as an IDF infantryman on a pontoon bridge on our way to encircle the Egyptian 3rd Army. A lot of water has passed through the canal since then & now Israel and Egypt are at peace, more than that in fact trade partners & allies in the fight against the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas & ISIS

  2. nehad ismail - London | 12th August 2015 at 1:21 pm | Reply

    On Thursday 6th August early evening I received a phone call from the offices of a London based Middle Eastern TV Station broadcasting in Arabic. The caller asked if I have any views about the New Suez Canal? I said yes. He asked, do you like to discuss the subject in a live discussion at 10 pm the same evening. I said yes if you arrange for a car to take me from Camberley Surrey and to bring me back, as I am not in the mood of struggling on trains and tubes on a humid sultry night. He said no problem. He disappeared for 5 minutes and then phoned back with a “bombshell”. We want someone to be critical of the project. I said to him sorry I want to talk about the economic advantages to international trade and to Egypt. He said can I call you back in a minute or two. Then he came back to say sorry the people (presumably the Political guys in the Station) insist on having a guest ready and willing to attack the project. I said sorry. Find someone else.

    • Mahatmacoatmabag | 12th August 2015 at 4:12 pm | Reply

      Hi Nehad, good for you. Maybe you can write an article exposing those London based Middle Eastern TV Stations that are inciting against Egypt’s attempts to recover economically from the tyranny of the Muslim Brotherhoods time in office. Obviously they know that if Egypt’s economy doesn’t manage to replace the loss of earnings from Tourism by such means as increased revenue from the Suez Canal then the MB will be able to reincite people to come out in the streets & take part in riots causing further economic damage & social turmoil.

  3. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 12th August 2015 at 6:10 pm | Reply

    Hi Mahatmacoatmabag. Thanks. Yes it would make an interesting article. I shall give it serious thought. Have a nice evening.

  4. Noir, I’m actually none of what you think I am, and I didn’t say you’re MB or a spy, I stated you are blindly repeating frenzied US state backed propaganda aimed at applying political pressure to shape Egyptian policy, but by all means continue with your character assassination methodology instead of debating facts. Would the public ignore the visual impact of the new two-way canal, and consider instead belated articles drumming doom and gloom?

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